Postal Service warns Ohio of delayed absentee ballot requests

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Ballots postmarked by November 2 can be counted if received up to 10 days past the election

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A letter sent by the United States Postal Service to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose warns that deadlines to request absentee ballots may not be compatible with postal service delivery standards.

The letter, sent by USPS General Counsel and Executive Vice President Thomas J. Marshall, reads in part:

Specifically, it appears that a completed ballot must be postmarked before Election Day and received by election officials within 10 days after the election. If that understanding is correct, voters who choose to mail their ballots may do so on or before Monday, November 2. However, it further appears that state law generally permits voters to apply by mail for a ballot as late as 3 days before the election. If a voter submits a request at or near the deadline, and the ballot is transmitted to the voter by mail, there is a significant risk that the ballot will not reach the voter before the state’s postmark deadline of November 2, and accordingly that the voter will not be able to use the ballot to cast his or her vote. That risk is exacerbated by the fact that the law does not appear to impose a time period by which election officials must transmit a ballot to the voter in response to a request.

According to the Washington Post, 45 other states recently received similar letters.

LaRose’s office told NBC4 his office has been preparing ways to mitigate delays in election mail since the primary election earlier this year.

He said the Postal Service will continue the following improvements through the fall:

  • USPS will institute “all clear” processes to ensure all election mail is processed each day.
  • Staff will recheck collection bins each day to ensure late arriving ballots are retrieved.
  • Postal facilities will track election mail deliveries to Ohio’s boards of elections
  • Election mail will not be routed through the Detroit Regional Distribution Center. Instead it will be kept in-state. 
  • The United States Postal Service will assign their independent investigative unit to do additional “all clear” checks at Ohio facilities.

LaRose said he sought legislation to change the absentee ballot request deadline to seven days before the election. No such law was passed.

Instead, absentee ballot request forms recommend they be returned by October 27.

Ballots postmarked by November 2 can be counted if received up to 10 days past the election.

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