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2020 is looking to be a pivotal year in politics. But this year's elections are about much more than the race for the White House. And the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a complicating factor. WKSU, our colleagues at public radio stations across Ohio and the region and at NPR will bring you coverage of all the races from the national to the local level.

Thousands of Provisional Ballots Are Being Counted at Summit County Board of Elections

Summit County Board of Elections Voter Line
Jon Nungesser
Voters line up at the Summit County Board of Elections for early voting in the 2020 general election.

The Summit County Board of Elections spent hours crawling through thousands of provisional ballots Monday to decide which should count in the final tally of the Nov. 3 election. It’s a laborious process happening at all 88 of Ohio’s county boards of election.

The provisional process is one reason results are never final Election Night. Voters who encounter problems—things like mismatched addresses or forgotten IDs—get paper ballots, giving election workers time to comb through records and voters time to supply documents.

But provisional ballots ballooned this year to nearly 160,000 statewide. That’s largely because of voters who requested mail-in absentee ballots but changed their minds and showed up to vote in person Election Day. Provisionals ensure they won’t be counted twice if they vote both by mail and in person.

Summit County Board of Elections Director Bryan Williams says provisional ballots are often the biggest problem in an election.

“It’s the one area where people are most likely to—still small—but most likely to be disenfranchised," Williams said. "We approved 81 percent of the provisionals that were processed. That’s the highest number I ever remember."

Each county elections board must certify its official results by 2 p.m. Wednesday. (Statewide certification must be done by Nov. 28).

M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.