Fred Lefton took his and his wife’s absentee ballots to the post office the Sunday before the Nov. 3 election with more than enough stamps on them to cover the postage. He put the ballots into the mailbox there and assumed they would be postmarked the next day and sent to the Summit County Board of Elections. A few weeks later, Lefton received a letter from the elections board informing him that when the ballots arrived, they lacked a postmark and couldn’t be counted. Lefton, who cared deeply about issues on the ballot, was outraged. “It really is upsetting to know that you go to the trouble of casting a ballot and putting postage on it and it isn’t counted,” said Lefton, a pharmacist who lives in Hudson. “With some of the things, the vote went the other way. So why am I voting?”
Lefton is among about 900 Summit County voters whose mailed-in absentee ballots lacked postmarks and were received by the elections board after Election Day. Under Ohio law, boards can count late absentee ballots as long as they are postmarked by the day before the election and received within 10 days of the election. The boards use the postmark to gauge whether ballots met the deadline.
The problem — which was much greater than in past elections — prompted the Summit County Board of Elections last month to schedule a Dec. 28 hearing and subpoena postal officials to answer questions about what caused the increase and how to prevent this from happening again. Board members think the problem was worsened because of the recent closure of Akron’s mail processing center. The closing means mail from the Akron area now goes to Cleveland before it returns to Akron for delivery.