Fewer than 3 percent of the 31,688 people who voted during the Nov. 6 election in Belmont County had to do so via provisional ballots. But the percentage was twice that in Franklin County, where nearly one-third of the voters in one precinct used provisional ballots.
Provisional ballots are used for several reasons in Ohio. One is when voters are not listed on official lists used in polling places. That may happen because they have moved. Another class of voters who must use provisional ballots is those who forgot to take photo identification to the polls.
During the days after an election, provisional ballots are checked by election workers. Those found to be from legitimate voters are counted.
In Belmont County and elsewhere in East Ohio, the number of provisional ballots cast on Election Day does not seem out of the ordinary.
But in areas such as a few precincts in Franklin County, the number should raise eyebrows.
There have been no allegations of vote fraud in Ohio, to our knowledge. But evidence of crime is not the only reason election officials should be looking into why so many provisional ballots were cast in some locations.
Clearly, there is something wrong when 32 percent of ballots cast in one precinct are provisional, as was the situation in one Franklin County polling place. Were voter lists badly outdated? Did many voters forget to bring identification, perhaps because they were unaware of the requirement? Exactly what factors were involved in the high percentage of provisional ballots?
Again, there have been no claims of widespread fraud. But had the presidential election been closer in Ohio, it is likely the possibility would have been raised.
That makes it important for election officials to look into the provisional ballot question, to guard against problems in the future.