Sec. of State LaRose calls for investigation after Butler Co. ballots delivered post-deadline

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 5:14 PM EDT
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BUTLER COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - The United States Postal Office delivered hundreds of ballots to the Butler County Board of Elections Monday, three days after the May 8 deadline for mail-in ballots to be counted in the 2020 primary election.

The March 17 election was turned into a vote-by-mail election following Ohio House Bill 197. The bill extended the election to April 28, but ballots delivered to county BOEs between April 28 and May 8 could be counted so long as they were postmarked on or before April 27.

The 317 ballots delivered to Butler County’s BOE Monday were postmarked on or before April 27, according to BOE Precinct Election Official Administrator Melissa Trotta.

In a letter to USPS Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman released Tuesday, Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose called for an investigation into the delayed delivery of the ballots.

Trotta also released a statement Tuesday.

Neither Trotta nor LaRose state unambiguously the ballots will not be counted in the election. Trotta rather leaves the status of the ballots to inference, while LaRose describes those voters as having been “silenced” and “effectively disfranchised."

Both claim the delayed delivery of the ballots means USPS was in possession of the ballots for 14 days, referring to the duration between the votes’ post-marked date and their delivery to the BOE.

“We are deeply disappointed by the failure of the postal service to deliver these properly cast ballots prior to the May 8th deadline,” BOE Director Diane Noonan said. “It was our understanding that the USPS was instituting additional checks to ensure all ballots were properly delivered, and that clearly didn’t happen.”

LaRose also discussed those checks in his letter, referencing a conversation he says he had with Stroman and USPS COO David Williams where the following was agreed upon (quoted directly from LaRose’s letter):

  • "USPS will institute “all clear” processes to ensure all election mail is processed each day;
  • "USPS will set up hand-to-hand delivery for election mail as it makes its way through processing on Saturday, from the board of elections to the distribution center;
  • "Staff will recheck collection bins each day to ensure late-arriving ballots are retrieved;
  • "Postal facilities will track election mail deliveries to Ohio’s boards of elections starting on Monday, April 27th and continuing through May 8th;
  • "To avoid further delivery delays in northwest Ohio, election mail will not be routed through the Detroit Regional Distribution Center. Instead, it will be kept in-state. Additionally, an Ohio manager will be assigned to Detroit to ensure any mail mistakenly sent there is handled appropriately;
  • “The United States Postal Service will assign their independent investigative unit to do additional “all clear” checks at Ohio facilities.”

In his letter, LaRose goes on to request an investigation that details how the delayed delivery happened, what protocols were not followed, and proof of the security of the ballots.

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