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Northeast Ohio county election boards prepare for record vote-by-mail applications

Posted at 5:02 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 19:55:25-04

CLEVELAND — Northeast Ohio county election boards are working to try and prepare themselves for a record number of vote-by-mail applications, with the upcoming Presidential election just five weeks away.

Director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Tony Perlatti said his team is expecting as many as 350,000 mail-in ballot applications by election day on Nov. 3, making up more than 50% of the total vote countywide.

Perlatti said his team will add 50 additional temporary employees to help with the counting of ballots, working to prevent longer delays in election results.

Perlatti urged voters to send in their mail-in ballot applications as soon as possible, and if they have questions to log into the county website for help.

“You want to maximize the mail-in window, especially with the vote-by-mail process,” Perlatti said. “We will have some kind of result, but again, it’s not going to be until the wee hours of Nov. 4, the day after."

Perlatti said his team has also added two additional scanners but said voters should not delay sending in their vote-by-mail applications with all Ohio counties starting to send out ballots on Oct. 6.

“A scanner only goes so fast, you can’t make it go any faster, so the time it takes is the time it takes,” Perlatti said. “It’s accuracy over speed, you can’t cut corners no matter what the volume is, you have to go through your process.”

Dale Fellows, Chairman of the Lake County Board of Elections, said he's expecting vote-by-mail to make up a record 60% of the vote in his county.

Like some other Ohio counties, Fellows said his team has set up online application and ballot tracking to ease the minds of voters about the process.

“It will show when we sent it out, it will say when that application arrived back, then you can track your ballot when we sent out the ballot. It will also say what date it arrived back,” Fellows said. “Some voters have a lot of concerns about the mail. Keep in mind our results are truly unofficial until we certify the election, which is several weeks later."

David Cohen, Political Science Professor at the University of Akron and Interim Director at the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said he's concerned about the potential for long delays in declaring a winner in the presidential race.

“I’m not confident that we’ll actually have a winner after the night concludes,” Cohen said. "What I fear the most is if it's a long-drawn-out process that becomes politicized from the start and that people do not have confidence one way or the other in the election result. Whoever wins, there is going to be a lot of doubt on the other side on who came up short and their supporters are going to be upset and angry, and I worry that could translate into civil unrest throughout the country.”