The Canal Winchester Times

Primary election

Late delivery of ballots causes delay in final tally


The Franklin County Board of Elections said difficulty locking a door at a polling station held up primary election results for about an hour May 6, causing some consternation for voters in the Groveport-Madison and Canal Winchester school districts.

Ben Piscitelli, spokesman for the board, said poll workers at Dayspring Community Church, 3919 Brice Road in Canal Winchester, had trouble locking the door at the end of the night and delivered the ballot boxes later than expected.

The polling place was a split precinct where residents were voting for levies in both school districts.

Dee Copas, spokeswoman for Groveport-Madison schools, said this year's delay was unusual, but caused a great deal of nervousness because the district's levy request last year lost by 12 votes.

"We can usually get the results from the polls (earlier)," Copas said, adding the levy won by 53-47 percent.

"And because it was so import for the district -- not that they're all not important -- but this one had really high stakes. We wanted to know if we could declare victory."

Per election rules, the board can't count precinct votes until they're delivered to the board of elections warehouse on Alum Creek Drive, Piscitelli said.

He said election-night results, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, were put to bed at 2 a.m., about an hour later than general election results in 2013.

"It's not unusual for a primary election to take longer to tabulate than a general election because you have more candidates," Piscitelli said. "We thought we did pretty well."

Adding to delays was a change in policy to not report absentee ballots shortly after polls closed. The board decided only to report absentee votes in two races of high interest: the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium levy and the race between Democrats Zach Scott and John O'Grady, who were vying for the 16th Ohio Senate District, Piscitelli said.

Normally on election night, absentee ballots are reported first. Because Scott's name was added late to the ballot, after absentee voting started, the board decided to count all the absentee votes for Scott and O'Grady separately, and then tabulated them when 100 percent of the precincts were counted, Piscitelli said.

Then all absentee votes were counted, but were held up by the polling station delay in Canal Winchester.

Piscitelli said voter turnout was 16.5 percent, with 131,911 voters casting ballots. There are 796,483 registered voters countywide.

In the 2013 general election, voter turnout was 19.78 percent, 156,561 voters casting ballota and 791,386 registered voters.

The voting system in Franklin County, and elsewhere in Ohio, requires a Republican and a Democrat to retrieve ballot results from more than 400 polling stations -- there were 408 in the primary -- and drive them to the board of elections warehouse.

"Unless or until they come up with a better system statewide that's what we have to do," he said. "That's what they do everywhere."