Even though Ohio's primary ended April 28, the election isn't over just yet. Results aren't official until they are certified by the Hamilton County Board of Elections, and for them, the process is just getting started.
On election night, the Board of Elections conducted an unofficial ballot count of all ballots received by mail and in-person, but many ballots were still on the way. They are now still accepting ballots until May 5, as long as they were postmarked before Election Day. Ballots from overseas and military voters will be accepted until May 8. Additionally, voters who did not present valid IDs when voting and submitted provisional ballots or had mislabeled absentee ballots have until May 5 to "cure" their ballots and ensure they are counted.
Provisional ballots are ballots submitted by voters that had errors or could not be verified. According to Hamilton County Board of Election Deputy Director Sally Krisel, common reasons for submitting provisional ballots are name changes, address changes, lack of valid ID, or requesting an absentee ballot and not receiving it in time.
"I think there are some people worried about casting provisional ballots," Krisel said. "We go through all of that documentation to make sure that we are getting every single vote that we can counted, which is why the official (count) comes a couple days later."
The final vote count begins on May 9, once all ballots are submitted. On May 12, the Board of Elections reviews provisional ballots and decides which should be counted. Then, the election is certified and results are made final on May 14. This is when results will be released to the public.
If any race is within a 0.5% margin, an automatic recount is triggered according to Ohio law. In that case, the Board of Elections would randomly draw precincts to count ballots by hand. Results would be counted and released on May 20 for those races.
"We always plan for (recounts) because you never know what the remainder of ballots will add to the overall," Krisel said. "We don't know what will change, sometimes (margins) get closer, sometimes they get larger."
According to unofficial results, two races are still close — Issue 7 and the Democratic race for Hamilton County commissioner. According to the unofficial count, the "yes" vote on Issue 7 leads by only 0.48%, and Alicia Reece leads Connie Pillich by 2.63%. WVXU has declared Reece the victor of the commissioner primary, but Pillich has not conceded the race and is awaiting final results.
Krisel emphasized the importance of the final vote count, and urged any voters with questions to reach out to the Board of Elections on its website or by phone.
"The unofficial count, while most times doesn't change the end result, it can. Most people think that's the official thing and it's over with - it isn't. There's a lot of other things we have to consider to make sure that every single person's ballot gets counted," she said.
Krisel expects final vote counts to be released on May 14 for all races, barring recounts.