Warning from Ohio: Don’t be misled by early election day results

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s very possible that the nation will be looking closely at early poll results from Ohio next Tuesday to see who that state chose for president, and therefore, who won the presidential election.

But the early results may not be conclusive, or even very helpful, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who held a news conference to outline how results will be tallied and distributed on election night.

After polls close, Ohio will begin the evening by releasing the results of absentee ballots it received before election day, Husted said, at around 8:30 p.m. About 1.3 million absentee ballots have been sent out to voters — and about 72% have already been cast, he said.


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Though those absentee votes may imply the election is going one way, those results could be completely turned around over the next few hours as results from in-person voting come in. The secretary of state’s office will release results from big counties every 15 minutes, medium-size counties every 30 minutes and small counties every hour.

If the election is close, America will have to wait 10 more days for the final results. That’s because Ohio, unlike most other states, has a law that stipulates that the secretary of state must wait 10 days before counting provisional ballots and late-arriving absentee ballots. All absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 5 to count.

An automatic recount can’t happen until Nov. 27, Husted said. An automatic recount is triggered in Ohio when the result margin is less than 0.25%, or about 14,000 votes in an election in which 5.6 million votes are cast (5.7 million Ohioans voted in 2008).

Husted has been a controversial figure this election season, asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block a pair of rulings that would have required polls to be open three days before the election and fighting an advocacy group over whether voters who show up at the wrong polling stations should be allowed to vote. An appeals court ruled in Husted’s favor on the polling station issue Wednesday, and he said there are no more pending legal challenges in Ohio.

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At the news conference Thursday afternoon, he continuously emphasized Ohio’s efforts to make sure everyone in the state can vote.

Ohio is a state that “bends over backwards to create all these conveniences for voters,” he said. “We have options for voters in our state that do not exist in many of our border states.”

Ohioans have 750 hours to vote by mail, 246 hours to vote in person and 13 hours to vote on election day, he said.

“Ohio is a leader in voter access,” he said.

Husted, a Republican, said he didn’t think the absentee and provisional voting rules would be a problem on Nov. 6. When asked whether he thought the state would be able to declare a winner in the presidential contest on election night, he said, “My expectation is that we will.”

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Twitter: @AlanaSemuels