Although much of Ohio experienced snow, high winds and some damage and power outages due to Hurricane Sandy, it hasn’t stopped voters from turning out early to cast their ballots in the upcoming election.
According to the Washington Post, only one county in Ohio, a state which will prove crucial in determining the outcome of the Nov. 6 Presidential election, experienced a power failure at an early-voting site on Tuesday morning. Power was eventually restored at Erie County’s voting site, but the outage set back the start of voting by over two hours. Voters who arrived on schedule at 8 a.m. were forced to wait until about 10:20 a.m. to cast their votes, said an election official.
Absentee ballots, on the other hand, have been steadily coming in since Oct. 2. Ohio was unusually proactive in aiding voters this year, mailing out absentee ballot applications to all registered voters. According to the Secretary of State’s office, this year 1.32 million absentee ballots had been delivered to voters, reported Reuters.
But legal experts are warning voters that it will take additional time to count provisional ballots – special ballots given to voters who specifically request absentee ballots, but invariably fail to use them and instead arrive at polling places on election day.
Edward Foley, Director of Election Law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, said that Ohio does give poll workers some discretionary power in distributing the ballots. The thinking in Ohio is, “if there's uncertainty, let's let them have a provisional ballot and we'll catch up with it later," explained Foley.
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And that philosophy may be a contributing factor in explaining why Ohio is thought to have one of the highest rates of provisional ballot use in the United States. The Plain Dealer, a Cleveland-based newspaper, reported that 200,000 provisional ballots were cast in the 2008 election, although nearly 40,000 were cast out for being ineligible.
However, the ballots can drag out the process of determining a winner because officials are prohibited from counting them until at least Nov. 17, under Ohio state law.
"If it's a really tight race, we could be in a position where we don't know [the winner] until provisional ballots are counted," said Edward Foley, Director of Election Law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. "If Ohio is held up, and Ohio is essential to know who won, then the presidency is going to get held up."