There was disturbing news from the Summit County Board of Elections last week. The absentee ballots of 861 voters who mailed their selections to the board were disqualified, even though they had done nothing wrong. What their ballots lacked was a postmark, or at least the kind required by Ohio law. The disqualified ballots from the Nov. 3 election represent 9 percent of the mailed-in absentee ballots in the county. No one familiar with Ohio’s role in presidential elections could ignore easily the thought that such a disqualification rate next year — multiplied across this battleground state — could throw the national results into controversy and lawsuits.
Actually, the problem that surfaced in Summit County has been simmering since 2008, when the legislature, in an otherwise commendable effort to encourage early voting, allowed boards to count mailed absentee ballots received within 10 days of an election — provided they were postmarked by the day before Election Day.
Yet, at the same time, the national policy of the Postal Service states that not every piece of mail gets the kind of traditional postmark required by Ohio law, meaning the problem in Summit County is really a statewide problem. The Postal Service considers a piece of mail with a printed postal label or a metered piece of mail to already have a postmark.