Absentee Ballots May Cause Delay

WHEELING – Ohio County is receiving a higher than usual number of absentee ballots for this year’s general election, and that could mean later results on election night.

Toni Chieffalo, coordinator of elections in Ohio County, said 686 absentee ballots have been sent out to Ohio County voters so far, and the West Virginia Secretary of State’s website states that 385 had been returned as of Tuesday afternoon. Markings on these paper ballots must be entered by hand into touchscreen voting machines on Election Day by election workers, which could take several hours.

Ohio County is currently fourth in the state in the number of absentee ballots received, behind the state’s larger counties of Kanawha at 884, Cabell County at 446 and Berkeley County at 404.

Absentee ballots have also been cast in other local counties. Brooke County reported 161 absentee ballots submitted; Hancock County, 153; Marshall County, 194; Tyler County, 55; and Wetzel County, 96.

Chieffalo expects to have as many as four two-worker teams processing absentee ballots on Election Day, while past years have seen just one or two teams doing the work.

Each team is comprised of one Democrat and one Republican.

One team member reads off the markings on the absentee ballot, while the second enters the choices into the touchscreen voting machine. Chieffalo said they will start the task about 2 p.m. Tuesday, and she expects the work will take at least five hours.

In 2008, teams continued to enter the information until well after other ballots were counted by county officials. The absentee ballot numbers weren’t added to the final tally until two hours later.

“We are way over what we had in past years,” Chieffalo said. “In 2008, we only had 400 to 450 absentee ballots.”