COLUMBUS, Ohio — About 5,500 ballots that were cast in person on Ohio’s delayed primary election were not counted because the voters were neither disabled nor homeless and didn’t request an absentee ballot on time.
That represented a small fraction of the 1.8 million ballots that were counted in the election.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose released the official results of the 2020 primary on Friday afternoon, about 2 1/2 months after Ohio’s originally scheduled March 17 Election Day.
After the polls were closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, state lawmakers extended the election to April 28 and forced most voters to cast absentee ballots through the mail. It carved out two exceptions: voters who were disabled or did not have access to mail, mostly the homeless.
But mail delays plagued the system, and some voters never received their ballots.
Those who showed up at their Board of Elections on April 28 to cast an in-person provisional ballot had to certify that they fell into one of the two exempted categories. LaRose directed boards of elections not to count those who did not unless the board could verify that the voter had requested an absentee ballot ahead of the deadline at noon on April 25.
Democrats in the Ohio General Assembly and voting rights advocates objected to that decision.
A total of 24,788 provisional ballots were counted. Boards of elections rejected 10,160, including 5,469 that did not meet the qualifications to vote in person set out by the Ohio General Assembly. Another 2,218 provisional ballots were rejected because the voter was not registered in Ohio.
Franklin County rejected the most provisional ballots for those who were not exempted: 901. Cuyahoga County rejected 754 for that reason, and Hamilton County rejected 354 who did not qualify to vote in person.
The mostly by-mail election almost certainly depressed turnout. About 1.8 million Ohio voters cast ballots, or about 23.6% of those eligible.
Ohio originally was set to be a key factor in the Democratic presidential primary, but former Vice President Joe Biden was the last remaining candidate in the race by April 28. Nearly 926,000 Democratic ballots were cast compared with 801,000 ballots in the Republican primary, where President Donald Trump was running unopposed.
Biden received about 72% of the Democratic votes, according to the official results. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the last candidate to drop out of the Democratic primary, received less than 17% of the votes.
About 3,000 Libertarian ballots were cast as well.
“Absolutely every one of those voices are consequential and important,” LaRose said in a video message. “Ohioans overcame great adversity to cast ballots this spring. They shouldn’t have to.”
LaRose is pressing for the state legislature ahead of the November general election to move up the deadline to request an absentee ballot, authorize him to send absentee ballot applications to all Ohio voters, allow voters to request absentee ballots online and pay for postage on absentee ballots.
He has said the state should not conduct an all-mail election and must offer in-person voting in the general election.