COLUMBUS, Ohio — With Election Day in full swing in our swing state, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose went on Facebook to provide a live update on what voters have encountered so far today and to set expectations about election night results.
“Obviously, this is a historic election, one unlike anything we've ever seen,” LaRose said. “And we keyed in on a few key priorities really from the very beginning.”
Those priorities included:
- Recruiting a massive number of poll workers — 56,000 were trained and standing by when Ohio’s nearly 4,000 polling locations opened at 6:30 a.m.
- Establishing health and safety guidelines under guidance from the CDC and Ohio Department of Health, creating a 61-point checklist that included PPE distribution
- Maximizing early and absentee voting, which LaRose has said was a resounding success with 3.4 million ballots already cast
- Ensuring all Ohioans who wanted to vote were registered, which LaRose also labeled a success with over 8 million registered in Ohio
“Of course, all of this preparation culminated in this morning when the polls opened all throughout Ohio, close to 4,000 locations, opening up at 6:30 a.m. And I'm happy to report that as we stand here today, Election Day in Ohio is going smoothly so far,” LaRose said. “Of course, as with any election, when you've got that many polling locations in a big, diverse state like Ohio, there are going to be a few things here and there."
One of those “bumps in the road” was a notification from the Franklin County Board of Elections that they were experiencing problems uploading voter data into their electronic poll books.
At about 5:30 a.m., the board made the decision to switch to their backup plan: paper three-ring binders, the paper check-in books that have been used in the past.
“This is why we have backup plans,” LaRose said. “I'm happy to say that the county boards of elections were able to use their CARES Act money to make purchases like this.”
LaRose reiterated the “100-foot buffer” around polling locations, saying that no political activity is allowed to occur.
“Of course, voters have been instructed not to wear hats or shirts with their favorite candidate's slogan on it,” LaRose said. “And when, you know, enthusiastic voters show up wearing a shirt or a hat with their favorite candidate slogan on it, they'll be dealt with in a professional and friendly manner by the county board of elections personnel, the poll workers that are there. And they've been trained to help de-escalate that situation and talk through people.”
LaRose said there have been no reports of intimidation, obstruction or any other illegal activity at polling locations.
He shared some anecdotes from polling locations so far today.
In Tuscarawas County, a poll worker left the keys that were needed to activate the voting machines at the board of elections. A quick-thinking sheriff’s deputy got in his patrol car, turned on his lights and sirens and was able to get to the board of elections and back in just a few minutes.
“That's, again, the kind of quick thinking and really patriotic and creative service that people render on Election Day,” LaRose said.
Hamilton County had a shortage of poll workers, so they called the Secretary of State’s office. They had an existing partnership with Poll Heroes, a nonprofit group started by a group of college students to recruit poll workers nationwide. They found someone who had volunteered in that county and got them quickly trained up and dispatched to the polling location.
In Miami County, a woman ran her car into the polling location and damaged a wall, LaRose said. She was still able to cast her ballot before leaving the scene, and voting was able to continue at that location after the fire department inspected the building and determined it was safe to continue operating.
“Everybody kept a cool, calm head,” LaRose said. "They called in the public safety professionals to look at the building. And again, the woman was okay and able to cast her ballot.”
LaRose then set expectations for tonight once the polls close.
“Starting at 7:30 tonight, our boards of elections, actually at 7:31, will immediately begin to tabulate their ballots. And the very first ballots counted in most cases will be those early and absentee ballots,” LaRose said. “It's intuitive why our boards of elections have been processing those for weeks now. Now, contrast that to some of our neighboring states, like Pennsylvania and Michigan, where they weren't even allowed to start cutting open envelopes until today. And in those states, they're going to have a delay because counting all of those ballots is going to take time when they just now started today. But again, thankfully, in Ohio, we've been process processing absentee ballots since the 6th of October.”
At around 8:30 p.m. to 8:34 p.m., as the precinct locations start to get their ballots down to the boards of elections, you’ll see those begin processing, LaRose said.
“Of course, the thing that could lead to a delay tonight is if a board of elections receives a large delivery of mail today,” LaRose said. “If the postal truck shows up today with tens of thousands of ballots on board, then, yes, that will cause them to have to have a little bit longer night. But those are things that we have worked to mitigate.”
There are currently 243,023 absentee ballots that have not yet been returned, LaRose said, “and my hope is that many of those 243,023 Ohioans have returned their absentee ballots today.”
Those voters have until 7:30 p.m. tonight to return them.
So when can Ohioans expect to see actual results?
“What will happen later on in the night is that we will report an accurate but incomplete number,” LaRose said. “Now, let me just deconstruct that a little bit for you. What we're going to report is going to be an accurate number, but it's not going to be the final story. As you all understand, and I've gotten these questions over the last couple of weeks, will we have a final number on election night? Well, the answer is of course not, because we never have a final number on election night. That's just not how election night reporting works. It never has been. But what we will have is an accurate number of everything that's been received so far. Every absentee vote, every early vote and every in-person Election Day vote will be tabulated and reported tonight as part of our unofficial tabulation.”
LaRose’s office will also report the number of outstanding ballots, which, for the first time ever, will be displayed right at the top of the election night reporting website.
“There's a reason why that's important. We know that a large number of those absentee ballots will come in over the next 10 days,” LaRose said. “Of course, boards of elections can receive ballots up until up till and through the 13th of November, as long as they were postmarked by Monday, November 2nd. We know that every legally cast ballot must be counted and will be counted. That's how we do it here in Ohio. That's what the law says.”
So will tonight’s numbers be conclusive?
“Well, that'll be up to you to look at that number and make a determination,” LaRose said. “Again, if your favorite candidates are ahead by a million votes and there are yet 200,000 outstanding absentee ballots, I think you can look at that to say that that contest is over. But if your favorite candidates ahead by 100,000 votes and there are still 200000 outstanding absentee ballots, will then just by definition of that contest is not going to be over until we have the time to count every single ballot. Again, when the numbers change between the unofficial report on election night and the final certified tally that comes a few weeks later, that's not a sign of something nefarious. In fact, far from it. It's a manifestation of that commitment that you hear every elections official make, that every voice matters and every legally cast ballot must be counted. And so that's exactly what we'll do here in Ohio.”
Watch LaRose's full election update below: