Local Board of Elections addresses postage confusion on absentee ballots, mailing dates

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There are 52,000 Mahoning County voters voting via absentee ballots, compared to 28,000 in 2016

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – For those wondering where their absentee ballots are, workers at the Mahoning County Board of Elections said they’re on their way.

Whether voters requested them in the summer or last month, no ballots were mailed out until October 6.

“I know the mail houses, the Postal Service, it’s a busy time for everyone, but we know in Mahoning County that every ballot has been, if you requested absentee, it has been shipped at this point and mailed,” said Tom McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.

The wait to receive a ballot isn’t the only issue ruffling the feathers of voters. In Mahoning County, 15,000 voters received two sets of instructions: one said the postage was prepaid; another said it required postage.

The envelope to return it also says it requires postage, so the conflicting instructions left those voters confused.

McCabe said it was an issue of communication between the Board of Elections and the third party that makes the ballots.

“We went back and sent those 15,000 people a second set of instructions that let’s them know that postage is required to return those ballots,” said McCabe.

The affected voters didn’t have to redo their ballots or provide postage. The instructions were to make them aware of how mail-in voting works.

McCabe said the Board of Elections will still receive the ballots that were sent without postage.

“I think there’s a lot of first-time voters, absentee voters are doing this for the first time,” said McCabe of the confusion around mail-in voting. “I think the emphasis of vote by mail, every state does it different, so there’s a lot of conflicting stories and instructions out there because every state is different.”

As of Tuesday, 52,000 voters in Mahoning County have applied for absentee ballots compared to 28,000 in the 2016 election.

“The instructions for voting absentee has been the same in Mahoning County for close to 20 years,” said McCabe. “The voter gets the ballot, they fill in the ovals…and they’re going to put that ballot back in the return envelope with the postage on it and either, again, drop it off here at the board or drop it in the mail.”

Single-page ballots cost 55 cents, two-page ballots cost 70 cents, and it’s free if it’s dropped at the Board of Elections.

“You still have three weeks to fill that ballot out and get that back to us,” said McCabe. “That ballot has to be back in the mail by November 2 and postmarked by midnight.”

“We tell voters don’t delay and…get that back to us as quick as possible, but also you can drop it off here on Election Day up until 7:30 p.m., the closing of the polls, if you don’t get it back in the mail in time.”

According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, the deadline to request an absentee ballot in Ohio is three days before the election.

“A voter can actually track their application if it’s been processed and can actually track their ballot if it’s been sent through the Secretary of the State’s website or the Mahoning County Board of Elections website,” said McCabe.

His advice to those waiting for their ballot is to remain patient with the process; the ballots are on their way.

“We still have three weeks to go, so there’s still plenty of time to get your ballot back to us, and there’s still plenty of time if you want to vote absentee to get your application in to us, and we’ll get a ballot to you in the mail,” said McCabe.

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