County elections director: Deadline extension 'biggest mistake' so far

Ed Allison, director of the Lawrence County Voter Services, goes over mail-in ballot applications.

The Lawrence County Board of Elections is reminding voters that none of the election counts will be final on election night.

The vote counts will change, and the apparent winners also could change, they cautioned.

Although all of the mail-in and poll votes should be counted by midnight after the polls close, there still will be ballots that are not included, said Ed Allison, county elections director, making the actual election day results unofficial. And in the event of a close legislative or congressional race, it could be a few days before the results will be known, he said.

Allison told members of the county board of elections Tuesday that he expects the counting from the polls and the mail-in and absentee ballots to be done before midnight Nov. 3, "if everything goes perfectly."

Board member and Commissioner Dan Vogler pointed out also that the results for the state legislative and federal Congressional races "may be very close. We may not know the winners for a couple days."

"It could be a week or so before we know the presidential results," board chairman Morgan Boyd speculated. "We  may not have the results ... upwards to a week or so." 

"Assuming so, in terms of tabulation of precinct votes and those allowed to start counting at 8 p.m., there will still not be a final number," Vogler commented.

Ballots that won't yet counted that night will include provisional ballots, where voters have to provide identification in the elections office, plus about  80 to 100 military ballots that won't be canvassed until a week after the election, Allison said, adding, "there are still a few unknowns. We don't know how many provisional ballots we're going to have."

Provisional ballots are given at the polls for voters who, for example, received absentee ballots but decided to go to the polls instead and who don't have their mail-in ballots with them, Allison explained. A provisional ballot also might be issued to a first-time voter who goes to the polls without identification. There also could be other circumstances, he said.

"In a very close state or congressional race, we still have other work to do that could spill over a couple of days, and we may not know the outcome until a few days after the election," Allison agreed. "I hope no one is caught off guard by that, the day after the election, if there is a close race and they come in here and say 'Why hasn't this been done?'" 

He pointed out also that if the statewide race results have a margin of less than 1/2 percent, there would be a mandatory recount. The county would have to take all of its ballots and count them in machines other than those that were used in the original count, he said.

Allison pointed out that the election board typically does not certify the election until about two weeks after the polls close.

"We've talked about this at a public meeting and made it very clear that it is a distinct possibility, so it's part of the record," Vogler emphasized.

dwachter@ncnewsonline.com 

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Debbie's been a journalist at the New Castle News since 1978, and covers county government, police and fire, New Castle schools, environment and various other realms. She also writes features, takes photos and video and copy edits.

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