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Less than a week before Election Day, absentee voting numbers largest in years

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Athens County Board of Elections. File Photo by Morgan McCarthy.

With less than a week before the election, Athens County has already seen massive turnout for absentee voting, outpacing the past four presidential election years.

According to data compiled by the Athens County Board of Elections (BOE), 14,844 voters have requested absentee voting, or not voting on election day, either through the mail or through in-person early voting.

That is a nearly 50% increase in turnout for early and absentee voting when compared to the final count in the 2016 election, where 10,465 voters cast their ballot absentee. In 2012, only 9,783 Athens County voters requested absentee ballots, and in 2008, only 9,225 voters.

In Ohio alone, over 2.2 million voters have voted absentee for the 2020 general election, Cleveland.com reported. CNN estimates roughly 50 million absentee ballots have been requested nationally.

Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County BOE, said safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic are a main driver of absentee ballot voting.

“I’ve been here 29 years, and it’s going to be the biggest election I’ve ever seen — definitely going to be the most complicated we’ve ever dealt with,” Quivey told The New Political in September.

Around two-thirds — 10,031 votes — of absentee votes cast in the election have been through mail-in ballot requests, as of Oct. 28. The second largest portion of absentee voters are ‘in-office,’ meaning they voted early in-person at the BOE office on Court Street. These early voters accounted for 5,401 ballots, or around 30% of the absentee ballots requested. 

The remaining 3% of absentee requests are split among military and overseas voters, nursing home voters and those who brought their ballots into the Board of Elections.

The data also shows nonpartisan and Democratic voters in the county requested more absentee ballots than Republicans. Nonpartisan voters accounted for 7,012 ballot requests, followed by Democratic voters, who requested 6,307, while Republican voters made 1,515 requests. The Green and Libertarian Party voters requested a combined total of 10 ballots. 

Quivey said 12,376 absentee ballots have already been received and processed by the BOE. She said those who vote in person are automatically counted as absentee voters, and the number also includes received mail-in votes.

According to the office of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a total of 3,173,586 absentee ballots have been requested. Still, 840,000 absentee ballots requested by voters have not yet been returned, LaRose said Tuesday.

Absentee votes already processed are stored on flash drives that BOE directors are unable to access until the polls close at 7:30 p.m. on Election Day. After polls close, results will be tabulated and included in the general summary, Quivey said.

While some individuals, including President Donald Trump, have expressed concerns that unofficial results will not be available the night of Nov. 3 due to the large number of mail-in votes needing to be processed, Quivey said Athens County should expect unofficial results on election night.

“I know everybody is going to be snapping at the bit about election results, Quivey said. “But, I am not anticipating any backlog.”

As for lines on Election Day, Quivey doesn’t expect hour-long waits. She said the volume of mail-in and early voting may decrease the length of voting precinct lines throughout the county.

“I think there will be some lines, but not large lines, because there was such high absentee voting,” Quivey said.

The Athens County BOE will accept absentee ballot applications until Oct. 31. The BOE office on Court Street will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday to facilitate last-minute applications.

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