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Getting Mail-In Ballots Delivered

Don’t you just love bureaucratese, the language used so often by government officials in attempts to put lipstick on the proverbial pig?

Ohioans may have a new candidate for the government-speak hall of fame. It is a statement by U.S. Postal Service Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President David E. Williams, regarding a blunder in handling mail-in ballots for the state’s April 28 primary election.

Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, the primary, originally scheduled for March 17, was postponed until late April. Even then, traditional voting in person would have been risky. State officials encouraged use of mail-in ballots.

In order to ensure as many Ohioans as possible could vote, the rules stipulated that any received by May 8 could be counted, providing they were mailed by April 27. That seemed like plenty of time to account for delays in delivering mail to county election boards.

But on May 11, the Postal Service delivered 318 mail-in ballots to the Butler County Board of Elections. Because they missed the deadline by three days, they were not counted.

We don’t know how the elections went in Butler County, but we are aware of numerous situations during the past several years in which a few votes could have changed outcomes. What if the uncounted ballots had made a difference?

Now we come to the bureaucratese. I a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Rank LaRose, Williams explained the late delivery was due to “an unintentional missort of a tray of Butler County return ballots (that) contributed to a gap in the mail flow, resulting in the delay.”

Here’s the good part: The error was “an opportunity for improvement,” Williams stated.

No, it was not an “opportunity.” It was a terrible mistake that inevitably will reduce some Ohioans’ confidence in the mail-in voting system.

Give LaRose’s office and county election boards credit for handling the primary election remarkably well. None of the minor glitches they experienced rise to anywhere near the level of the Postal Service’s “opportunity.” LaRose is right to want more answers from the federal agency — as well as assurances the error will not recur during the November election.

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