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Absentee ballots arrive late in Summit

 

Votes won't be counted; Postal Service probing late delivery of 200-plus

 

By Rick Armon Beacon Journal staff writer

 

Published on Thursday, Sep 13, 2007

 

The Postal Service failed to deliver more than 200 absentee ballots in time for Tuesday's primary election in Summit County a mistake that could have affected the outcome of some races.

 

The ballots, which arrived by mail on Wednesday and Thursday, won't be counted, even though some were postmarked before the election day.

 

Postal spokesman David Van Allen said the post office is investigating the mishap, which is likely ''human error.''

 

''We would like to apologize for it,'' he said. ''That is not indicative of the service we intend to provide.''

 

Absentee ballots must be received by 7:30 p.m. on the day of the election to be counted, said Marijean Donofrio, deputy director of the Summit Board of Elections. A postmark does not matter, unless the ballot was sent from overseas, she said.

 

Elections workers visited the main Akron Post Office twice on Tuesday once at 10 a.m. and again at 4 p.m. to pick up mail, she said.

 

Workers were told there was no mail at 4 p.m., she said.

 

On Wednesday, 204 absentee ballots were delivered to the board. One was postmarked Sept. 8, one Sept. 9 and 103 Sept. 10. Ninety-nine had no postmark.

 

The board also received six absentee ballots Thursday, with one postmarked Sept. 5.

 

Van Allen couldn't say why some of the ballots were delivered without postmarks. He said that is part of the investigation.

 

The elections board didn't immediately know where the ballots originated and whether they could have affected any races. With provisional ballots yet to be counted, two Akron City Council races are separated by less than 13 votes.

 

Akron mayoral candidate Joe Finley, who lost to incumbent Don Plusquellic in the Democratic primary, said he had heard that the majority of those ballots were from the city. Even though it likely wouldn't affect the outcome of his race, Finley said he planned to ask the board to count the votes because it was an error by the Postal Service and not the voters.

 

''If they don't, I think we do have the option to take it to court for a judge to order the board to count them,'' he said.

 

A spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State's Office said it was unaware of the issue Thursday and to check back today.

 

The board had sent out 3,789 absentee ballots for the primary. Nearly 415 remain unaccounted for and it's unclear whether some people just chose not to vote, which sometimes occurs, Donofrio said.

 

Voters can call the board at 330-643-5200 to check if their absentee ballot was received, is one of those delivered late or is among the missing, she said.

 

Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or rarmon@thebeaconjournal.com.

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