NEWARK — The Licking County Board of Elections voted Monday to accept 465 absentee, provisional and Election Day paper ballots not previously counted in the general election.
The accepted votes will be added to the results announced on election night and the new totals will be certified at a Monday meeting of the elections board. The board also rejected 58 ballots for a variety of reasons.
It is not yet known how the additional votes will affect the close races in the election. Only one race fell within the margin of error for an automatic recount, but that could change.
The closest race was the Granville Village Council election, where three will be elected of the five candidates. Melissa Hartfield and Aaron Olbur were elected, but the third candidate elected has not been determined. Kim Keethler Ball leads with 698 votes to Matt McGowan’s 696 in results announced on election night.
The board accepted 178 absentees postmarked by Nov. 1 and received by Nov. 12, and rejected 24. One absentee ballot was returned after the voter had died.
“It looks like the voter signed the envelop,” Board of Elections Deputy Director Luke Burton said. “But we don’t believe they turned it in. A family member may have found it and turned it in.”
If the ballot had been turned in before the voter died it would have been counted.
Two absentee ballots were rejected because the signature did not match the voter’s signature.
“Clearly, somebody else signed the name,” Burton said. “Sometimes, a spouse will sign the name. We see that maybe once or twice an election. We’ll look and see if we think there’s any type of fraud or just a misjudgment.”
Seven absentee ballots were returned to the elections board as undeliverable.
“It could be somebody has a post office box and didn’t tell us,” Burton said. “The address they gave us can’t receive mail.”
Other rejected ballots included six with no signature, two without an identification envelope and one had the envelope but no ballot inside.
Of the provisional ballots cast on Election Day, 217 were accepted and 30 rejected. Eight of those accepted voted in the right polling location, but the wrong precinct due to poll worker errors.
The rejected provisional ballots included 24 with no history of an Ohio voter registration, either active or inactive, They apparently never registered or moved into the state.
One of those rejected voted in the wrong precinct and the wrong polling location.
“They need to vote from the correct polling place and they just flat out refused to do that,” Burton said. “If they refuse, we still allow them to vote provisional, but we told them it wouldn’t count.”
Burton said since he came to Licking County in January 2019, two voters have been sent to the Licking County prosecutor, but no charges were pressed in either case. One was determined to be an honest mistake. One was a voter mistake, but no charges were filed.
“Any type of irregularity, it’s always a possibility,” Burton said. “If there’s a blatant attempt at fraud, we’d recommend to the board and the board would recommend to the county prosecutor. We do not hesitate to prosecute.”
The board accepted 70 ballots cast on Election Day on paper ballots, including 53 placed in the wrong envelopes and 13 not counted due to a scanner issue, 11 at Cherry Valley Elementary. Four voters were 17 years old when they registered, but turned 18 by Election Day and poll workers missed it.
Four paper ballots were rejected because the voter did not sign the poll book. It’s a poll worker error, Burton said, but the votes cannot be counted.
Other close races included Hebron Village Council, where Annelle Porter led Andrea Chapman 208-204 for the final elected seat, and Newark School Board, where Mark Christenberry led John Ault 2,132 to 2,115. In Hartford Township, Christopher Peck led Timothy Jay Zarley 181-170.
Three township issues were also close. The Burlington Township property tax trailed by six votes, the Hartford Township property tax led by four votes, and the Liberty Township property tax led by five votes.
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Board of Elections accepts 465 ballots to be added to election count