| The Times-Reporter
NEW PHILADELPHIA Elections officials are confident that absentee ballots will be delivered on time in Tuscarawas County for the Nov. 3 general election.
Gail Garbrandt, director of the Tuscarawas County Board of Elections, said her office has a great relationship with the New Philadelphia Post Office.
She and Deputy Director Brian K. Swartzwelder have had several meetings with postal officials to prepare for the election.
“They have promised to stay open for us and make sure those ballots go out Saturday,” she said.
Saturday is the deadline in Ohio to request an absentee ballot.
In addition, the postmaster in Newcomerstown called the board of elections and said he will be driving to New Philadelphia on Saturday to deliver any absentee ballot applications received at his office that day, she said..
“We appreciate the cooperation we have at the local level,” Garbrandt said.
Election mail is handled a little differently than most first-class mail; it gets special tags at sorting facilities, for example. The Postal Service also says extra resources are being allocated to ensure ballots are delivered on time.
Yet a recent tracking effort by USA TODAY and the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism raises questions about the reliability of Postal Service data that claims to measure on-time performance. The Cincinnati Enquirer and the Columbus Dispatch were part of the effort.
Service in the Buckeye State continued to lag the nation in the early fall, the USPS data shows. Things are better than in May, June or July, however, according to an Enquirer analysis of Postal Service data obtained by the Associated Press.
Yet mail delivery is still well below the agency’s 95% on time standard for first-class mail.
During the first week of October, first-class mail in the Postal Service’s Ohio Valley region was on time 82.1% of the time, the Postal Service data shows. That made 17.9% of letters late.
In a July 30 letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the Postal Service said there is “significant risk” that ballots requested at or near the deadline would not arrive in time to be counted.
“We don’t want anyone to wait until the last minute,” Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, told the Dispatch.
Applications must be submitted by noon Saturday under Ohio law but waiting until the last minute isn’t advisable given concerns with the U.S. Postal Services’ delivery times. A returned ballot must be postmarked by Nov. 2 in order to be counted.
As of Wednesday, more than 4,300 people had voted in person at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse in New Philadelphia and between 6,000 and 8,000 absentee ballots have been returned to the board of elections office, Garbrandt said.
USA TODAY contributed to this report.