The Geauga County Board of Elections received 26 ballots last week for the April 28 primary election, but they came too late to be counted. Although each ballot was postmarked on time, they arrived at the board of elections too many days after the election due to human error at the United States Post Office in Chagrin Falls, according to the Director of the Geauga County Board of Elections Pete Zeigler.

“We reached out to the post office and they said that this was the result of human error,” he said on Tuesday. “That batch was misplaced in an incorrect bin which went out of state. By the time it cycled around, it was [the middle of] last week.”

The primary election was set for March 17, but Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton and Gov. Mike DeWine signed an order to close all in-person voting polling sites due to the coronavirus health emergency. The Ohio General Assembly later passed HB 197, which moved the primary to April 28 and only permitted absentee voting with exceptions for people with disabilities.

According to HB 197, the ballot had to be postmarked by April 27. Mr. Zeigler advised that all 26 ballots that were received in the second week of May were postmarked by April 27. HB 197 states that if the ballot is postmarked by April 27, it can arrive at the board of elections up to 10 days after the April 28 election and still be counted. That 10-day window had closed by the time these 26 ballots arrived at the Geauga elections board office.

“The law dictated that they couldn’t be counted and it is our responsibility to enforce that law,” Mr. Zeigler said.

He said that the return addresses for the ballots that could not be counted are around the Chagrin Falls post office and gave examples of Bainbridge and Auburn. Mr. Zeigler said that the board of elections tracks when it receives a ballot application, when the ballot is mailed and when it receives the completed ballot.

To ensure that all ballots are counted in the future, including the presidential election this fall, Mr. Zeigler said that the board of elections has reached out to its congressional delegation and the post office.

“I’m very pleased with how our office dealt with this election,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that one issue with the post office is overshadowing that.”

Julie Hullett has been a reporter for the Chagrin Valley Times since August of 2018 and covers Gates Mills, Hunting Valley, Moreland Hills, Orange, Pepper Pike and Woodmere. She graduated from John Carroll University with a journalism degree in 2018.

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