There are some political experts in the national media who believe that virus-spurred increased absentee voting will lead to a long week of counting ballots in certain states on Nov. 3.
John Lapinski, director of elections for NBC News, warns it could be an election week rather than election night because of the increased use of absentee ballots.
That means it might take a week to find out who won.
In the meantime, it’s smart to consider patience in the interim and not fall for the various conspiracy theories that will flood social media while we wait.
Mahoning Matters reported that state Rep. Michelle Lepore-Hagan and other Ohio Democrats want Secretary of State Frank LaRose to pay the postage on the returned ballot. State law prohibits that, but they want him to access CARES Act funds. LaRose, meanwhile, wants online absentee ballot application but he needs legislative approval for that. That seems sensible, makes life easier, cost nothing, except to the cave dwellers in the Ohio legislature.
It looks like absentee ballots and vote-by-mail will be the election story in 2020 with the Trump camp fueling claims of an infusion of ballots printed by foreign countries.
Those who envision a week-long election count cite the recent example of California. In the last presidential election, 5.8 million votes were cast and 3 million were counted on election day. It took seven weeks to count the remaining 2.8 million.
There only needs to be only one or two larger states with enough electoral college votes who are unable to declare a winner on election night to create a delay in determining the winner and potentially a week of uncertainty.
Pennsylvania and Florida meet those criteria.
Pennsylvania struggled with the absentee vote in its recent primary because of the large increase of mail-in ballots. Pennsylvania processed 1.5 million votes in this recent primary compared to 84,000 in 2016.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Gov. Tom Wolf had to give a last-minute order to extend the mail-in deadline.
Wendy Weiser, a voting rights expert at the Brennan Justice Center of Justice said about November: “Election officials do not yet have the infrastructure and equipment and staffing to handle the surge in mail ballots and they need the resources.” Pennsylvania can start to canvass at 7 a.m. on election day. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar wants permission to open ballots three weeks before election day.
Recent polls of Pennsylvania between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump have it quite close. Pennsylvania is a tipping state and if they do not get their absentee balloting in order, it could bring a long night — but probably not a week.
Meanwhile, Florida allows an election day postmark, and those ballots might actually arrive well after election day and still have to be counted. That could cause a delay.
Florida could prove interesting. Biden has a slim lead in the polls there and it is possible that a significant number of late-arriving absentee ballots will not be counted election night, so Florida could create that election week scenario.
Florida, of course, was the tipping state in 2000, and that state’s election led to a long controversy — Remember “hanging chads? — finally resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court. At least mail ballots were not the central issue in that melee.
Deputy Director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, Tom McCabe, is not convinced that there will be an election week. He said that the Mahoning Board can handle more than 50,000 absentee votes on election night and still deliver results that night.
That Board did a nice job with the all-mail primary election. Ohio requires a postmark the day before election day. Ohio also allows processing ballots, not counting, before election day.
McCabe pointed out that the national story that election administrators will have a challenge trying to get voting locations and poll workers because of the virus is accurate. He expects that to be a challenge in the Valley and everywhere.
My advice: Stay home, stay safe, get an absentee ballot and cuss out the candidates. Mark your ballot. Your vote will get counted, even if it’s eventually.
— Bill "Doc" Binning is a longtime Youngstown State University professor and occasional political operative who is now retired.