Election 2020: When will we know who wins Ohio?

Know before you vote: Election day in the Tri-State
Updated: Nov. 3, 2020 at 3:48 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio’s 18 electoral votes are up for grabs in the 2020 presidential election, but it’s possible we won’t know who gets them on Nov. 3.

Why? The big reason is the number of absentee ballots requested by Ohioans due to the pandemic.

Prior to 2020, Ohio law held that as long as absentee ballots are postmarked the day before an election (Nov. 2) and received by a county board of elections no later than eleven days after an election (Nov. 13), the ballots will be counted in the final result certified by Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose.

The difference in 2020 is the number of absentee ballots requested.

As of Monday evening, 243,023 of the 3.78 million total requested absentee ballots in Ohio remained outstanding. With many thousands of ballots potentially still in the mail on Nov. 3, some counties' results could remain unclear for as many as two weeks.

With that in mind, here’s how results will be reported and when we’ll know with certainty who gets Ohio’s electoral votes, per a LaRose directive issued last week:

Polls close in Ohio at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday. At 7:31 p.m., county boards of elections will begin tabulating votes to produce an unofficial canvass.

By 8 p.m., all absentee ballots received before Tuesday and all ballots cast early in-person must be reported to the Secretary of State’s office. Boards of elections began scanning these ballots Oct. 6, so counting them shouldn’t take long.

Ballots cast on election day are counted next and reported throughout the evening.

Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren counties will report election results every 15 minutes.

The canvass is unofficial due to the number of outstanding absentee ballots, as noted above, but also the number of absentee ballots with errors that must be cured prior to the official canvass Nov. 18. (More on that below.)

Precinct-level results won’t be available until the official canvass is complete.

The Secretary of State’s website will report the number of outstanding absentee and provisional ballots per county and statewide Tuesday night, a new addition for 2020. Frank LaRose speaks about the addition here.

If a candidate leads by more votes than the number of ballots outstanding or cast provisionally, that candidate is likely to have won the county. The same can be said of the state.

But with polls showing Ohio within the margin of error for the presidential election, that outcome is unlikely, meaning Ohioans could have to wait until the official canvass to know who wins the state.

The public reaction is unclear, but it won’t change the way the ballots are counted or the way the electoral college picks a president.

FOX19 NOW relies on the Associated Press for national and statewide races.

As AP notes, its reporting and analysis "is aimed at determining the answer to a single question: Can the trailing candidates catch the leader? Only when the answer is an unquestionable 'no’ is the race is ready to be called.”

County boards of elections will remain open to the public for seven days after the election to allow voters to resolve any issues with their absentee ballots. And for the first time, every board of elections must try to contact anyone who has an issue with their absentee ballot by phone, email or mail.

Issues include a ballot ID envelope that is missing required information or that contains information that does not match the voter’s registration record.

Counties will begin the official canvass Nov. 14 and complete it by Nov. 18.

LaRose will issue his official certification of the election result following reconciliation and a review of the official canvass on Nov. 18.

The timeline is shorter than usual to allow for the possibility of a recount, which will occur automatically if the final results are within 0.25 percent, according to Ohio law. The automatic recount would occur before Dec. 8.

Additionally, a candidate may request a recount if he or she pays for it.

Ohio’s final results must be in by Dec. 14, when the electoral college votes.

Ohio’s 18 delegates to the electoral college will vote collectively for the winner of the popular vote in the state, per Ohio law.

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