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Nearly 50,000 Franklin County voters received wrong absentee ballots

The Board of Elections has already started the process to send out new ballots.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Ohio — Nearly 50,000 Franklin County voters received wrong absentee ballots this week.

The Franklin County Board of Elections has already started the process to send new ballots to the 49,669 voters. As of Oct. 10, those ballots have begun printing and being prepared to ship.

Every voter who received a wrong ballot will get a new one. The board said on Friday the ballots will be sent out within 72 hours.

Informational postcards will be sent out to affected voters to let them know about next steps.

A spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections said voters’ requested absentee ballots that they received may not match up with the legislative district in which they reside. 

For example, a person who lives in Westerville might have received a blank absentee ballot that was meant for someone living in the Whitehall area.

The issue has caught the attention of President Donald Trump.

The president tweeted about the error Friday and his tweet can be seen below. 

Officials also said Thursday law enforcement is not involved in the investigation because it is not believed that anything "nefarious" happened and is not criminal in nature.

The board responded shortly after, saying it was a serious mistake but one they are working to correct.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a statement: "The Franklin County Board of Elections made a serious mistake and they’ve been working hard to correct it. At the same time, it’s so important to remember that Ohio has bipartisan boards of elections for a reason – to ensure our elections are fair and no Party has sway over the other. Protections are in place to ensure only one ballot is counted for each voter. I’m confident that the Franklin County Board will be transparent in explaining those processes. The bottom line is this: Ohioans can be assured – we will have a safe, secure, and accurate election."

10TV has reached out to Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office about a response a well.

The board set the following steps will be taken to make sure only one ballot is cast per voter:

  • Redundancies are built into our system to ensure every voter is allotted only one voted ballot.
  • Sorting systems will drop out and not accept any replacement ballots that are submitted if a voter has already voted in person
  • Nightly runs are issued to check all incoming ballots against earlier submissions or a vote cast in person
  • Election Day voting of anyone who has an active absentee ballot MUST vote provisionally

On October 3, the board was notified at 2:24 p.m. by a third-party vendor that a sorting machine had incorrectly sent the wrong ballots to Franklin County voters.

"Every voter who received an incorrect ballot, will receive a corrected ballot as soon as possible. The ballots will be coded for security purposes and once the voter impact list is final, we expect new ballots will be issued within 72 hours," said Ed Leonard, the Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.

You can watch Thursday's press conference here.

Jay Plasman was among the people who received a wrong ballot.

“It sounds like it is fairly widespread,” Plasman, a Worthington resident told 10 Investigates Wednesday afternoon.

Plasman said he heard from a friend living in the Upper Arlington area that he too had received the wrong absentee ballot.

The spokesman said the errors occurred with a scanner that helps read barcodes to help sort which ballots are matched to certain envelopes and are sent to respective areas.

In an e-mailed statement Wednesday, the board said the system that led to the wrong ballots being sent is now working correctly.

"The Board of Elections is working with our vendor Bluecrest who has representatives on site, as well as the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, as we move forward to correct this mistake," the board said in a statement.
New ballots should be mailed out in the next few days.

Bluecrest sent the following statement to 10TV on Wednesday:

Thank you for your inquiry. BlueCrest supplies the machines to the Franklin County Board of Elections (BoE) and provides training and onsite support to the County employees who operate them. We are working closely with the BoE to resolve the issue both by identifying the root cause of the problem and putting additional measures in place to mitigate a reoccurrence. The accuracy and security of the election process is of the utmost importance to both BlueCrest and the Franklin County Board of Elections. 

If you received a wrong ballot, you can verify by looking up the correct sample, here.

If you are unsure that you received an incorrect ballot you are urged to call 614-525-3100.

If you do not want to wait to receive a new ballot, you can vote early in-person at 1700 Morse Road in Columbus.

More than 237,000 requested absentee ballots were sought in Franklin County out of more than 880,000 registered voters.

Maggie Sheehan, a spokesperson with the Secretary of State's office said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday, "System checks are in place to make sure mistakes like the one made by the Franklin County Board of Elections don’t happen -- but they only work if the board properly executes those checks. When we became aware of the issue, we immediately notified the Franklin County Board of Elections and they began work to mitigate the issue with impacted voters."

RELATED: Election chief: Ohio positioning for smooth Election Night

LaRose wrote to the Franklin County Board of Elections Wednesday directing the board to do the following to correct the issue with the wrong ballots:  

The Secretary of State’s Office understands that there is an error on some ballots that your board of elections issued. Due to that error, the board of elections is directed to take following actions:

  1. The board of elections must develop a clear and concise message to share with the public and with each voter who may be impacted by this issue. Involve your prosecutor in reviewing all plans and communication.
    1. Use all relevant contact information (using email addresses, phone numbers, social media, media releases, etc.) to inform the voters of the issue as soon as possible. 
      1. Inform the voters that they will be contacted directly by the board if they received the incorrect ballot. 
      2. Inform the voters of the steps the board will be taking and how the voter can cast a vote appropriately.
    2. Develop and provide a cover letter explaining the issue/error with each replacement ballot issued. 
      1. Inform the voters to not return the voted original ballot and to only vote and return the replacement ballot. 
      2. Inform the voter of the option to vote their replacement ballot in-person at the board of elections before November 3, 2020. 
      3. Inform the voter that if they appear to vote on Election Day they will be required to vote a provisional ballot because they requested an absentee ballot.
    3. If possible, update the ballot tracker information to provide voters whose original ballot was incorrect with specific information about the actions the board will take and instruct the voter on what to do with the original ballot. 
  2. A replacement ballot must be provided to each voter who may have received an incorrect ballot. If a voter has already come to vote in-person and cast the proper ballot, the board does not need to mail a replacement ballot.
    1. If the voter did in fact receive an incorrect ballot and votes and returns the original ballot (incorrect ballot), the board should not process, remake, or scan the original ballot (incorrect) prior to the start of the official canvass.
      1. The return of the original ballot must be logged into the voter registration system. 
      2. The original ballot must be soiled.
      3. A replacement ballot must be issued and logged in to the voter registration system.
    2. If the replacement ballot is timely returned, the replacement ballot must be counted.
    3. If the replacement is not returned timely by the 10th day after Election Day but the original ballot is timely returned, the replacement ballot must be soiled and the original ballot must be processed, remade, and scanned on or after the 11th day after the election.

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