© 2021 Cincinnati Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
SPOTLIGHT: Your 2021 voter guide to Cincinnati's races for mayor, City Council, school board and more ahead of Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 2. >>

Waiting Game: 12th District Outcome Teeters On Outstanding Ballots

Danny O'Connor has yet to concede defeat in Tuesday's special election for the 12th congressional district.
Danny O'Connor has yet to concede defeat in Tuesday's special election for the 12th congressional district.

More than 8,400 outstanding ballots are giving the Danny O’Connor campaign a tiny glimmer of hope in the race to represent Ohio’s 12th congressional district. But the chance of the Democrat pulling off a win looks like a bit of longshot.

Republican Troy Balderson holds a narrow lead in the congressional race, with unofficial results showing him besting O’Connor by just over 1,564 votes. Balderson declared victory Tuesday night, as did President Trump, even though the Associated Press said the race was still too close to call.

There are enough remaining ballots - including 3,435 provisional ballots and 5,048 absentee ballots - to flip the final result.

"We just want this process to work. We're so close right now," O'Connor told WOSU's All Sides With Ann Fisher. "We're at half time in this election and it's a tie ball game. And we feel great about our message getting across this district, talking to voters."

O'Connor has so far declined to concede the race.

"We need to make sure that every vote is counted," O'Connor said. "And some of these ballots are overseas ballots for military personnel, and those are certainly people who we want to respect their right to vote."

But Ohio State University emeritus political scientist Herb Asher explains the chances are slim.

“O’Connor would need about 60 percent of the absentee and provisional votes in order to overcome that 17,00 vote deficit that he has," Asher says.

Asher explains it’s a near certainty some of the 8,400-odd provisional and absentee ballots will be invalidated for one reason or anther. 

"I think it’s probably a scenario in which the Republican’s margin may be reduced,” he says. “But I’m not sure that O’Connor can get 60 percent of the absentee and provisionals.”

Looking over a list of outstanding ballots, Asher zeroes in on Licking County, which has the largest pool of absentee ballots at more than 1,700.

“That’s really quite surprising,” Asher says, “and that I think would probably go heavily Republican, so looking at this I would say probably the Balderson victory would be just confirmed.”

Balderson did not respond to a request for interview.

State law mandates county election boards wait 11 days to begin counting their absentee and provisional ballots, so they’ll begin August 18.

Before that mandated count starts, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says that voters who cast a provisional ballot for lack of proper ID can return to the board of elections to provide that ID, so their ballot can be considered.

O'Connor is just hoping provisional ballots will get him below a 0.5 percent margin, which would trigger an automatic recount. Regardless of the results, the Franklin County recorder started canvassing again on Wednesday - he still faces another election in November against Balderson.

"The great thing here is we've got three more months," O'Connor says. "So we're going to keep criss-crossing this district. You know folks are paying attention, folks are getting tuned in. We're just gonna have to go where the voters are."

A late update to Franklin County tallies pushed O'Connor another 190 votes closer to Balderson, lowering the margin to 1,564 votes down from 1,750.

The Secretary of State's Office reports that 207,738 votes were cast in the special election, a turnout of 37 percent. 

Copyright 2018 WOSU 89.7 NPR News