Provisional ballots unlikely to change election results

LISBON — The Columbiana County elections board ruled Monday that 762 of the 920 provisional ballots can be added to the election day totals when the final count is performed, but the additional votes are unlikely to alter the outcome of the Salem charter proposal.

Of the 762 provisional ballots determined to be valid, 99 were cast by Salem voters. The charter proposal lost by 26 votes — 2,287 to 2,261 — according to unofficial results from the Nov. 8 election. Also added to the mix will be 49 late-arriving absentee ballots that were found to be valid, but officials did not know if any were from Salem voters.

Elections board director Adam Booth has said the addition of provisional ballots and late-arriving absentee ballots almost never affect the outcome of close elections, unless the margin of defeat is several votes, because the additional ballots tend to follow the same pattern as those cast election day.

In most instances the math works against altering the outcome, which would appear to be the case regarding the Salem charter proposal. For the outcome to change, 63 of the 99 provisional ballots from Salem voters would have to be in favor — nearly 2-to-1. The margin of defeat on election day was 50.3 percent to 49.7 percent.

For the same reasons, provisional ballots/late-arriving absentee ballots are unlikely to change the outcome of two other close ballot issues that were defeated by voters on election day: the Center Township gas aggregation, which lost by 24 votes out of 1,326 cast, and the St. Clair Township road levy, which lost by 33 votes out of 3,601 cast.

“I really don’t think anything will change,” Booth said.

The final count will be conducted either today or early Wednesday, with the board scheduled to meet again at 4 p.m. Wednesday to certify the results for submission to the Ohio secretary of state.

Provisional ballots are those cast on election day but called into question and set aside until staff can determine if the voter was registered or voting in the proper polling place. Booth said the staff determined 158 of the provisional ballots should be rejected for various reasons. The majority — 107 — were because the person was not registered to vote, while another 32 were thrown out because the person voted in wrong polling place.

The board also rejected 115 absentee ballots for various reasons. Approximately 38 arrived too late, while another 48 were deemed uncountable because the person had either died since voting early, moved after voting, or were from nursing home residents who either changed their mind or were unable to vote on the day when staff arrived to help them. Another 22 were thrown out because the voter failed to fill out the forms properly.