Election 2020: How and when are absentee ballots counted in Ohio?

Early and absentee voting is seeing record numbers in 2020 as Ohioans continue to make their choice for President of the United States and other important races in the Miami Valley.

The Ohio Secretary of State has issued a directive that tells local boards of elections how ballots can be counted this election cycle.

>> Election 2020: Early voting hours for local boards of elections in Miami Valley

>> Check to see where you can vote in person on Election Day


  • Boards of elections can process absentee ballots, including scanning, but not tabulating. They have been allowed to do this since Oct. 6. “The board must begin this process prior to Election Day to ensure the Unofficial Canvass includes all absentee ballots received by the close of polls," the Ohio Secretary of State said.
  • Boards of elections cannot tabulate any absentee ballots prior to 7:31 p.m. on Election Day.
  • Each board must upload vote totals for absentee ballots by 8 p.m., unless the voting system technology is unable to do so.


  • Election night reporting starts with all boards of elections first uploading of absentee results by 8 p.m. and results will continue to be uploaded at assigned times until all precincts have reported their results.
  • In the Miami Valley, Butler, Clark, Greene, Montgomery and Warren counties are required to report results each quarter hour (for example: 8 p.m., 8:15 p.m., 8:30 p.m., 8:45 p.m., etc.)
  • In the Miami Valley, Miami County is required to report results each half hour beginning at 8:30 p.m.
  • In the Miami Valley, Auglaize, Champaign, Darke, Logan, Mercer, Preble and Shelby counties are required to report results at the top of each hour (for example: 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. etc.).

The results released on Election Day after polls close are unofficial results.

Ballots that are postmarked by Nov. 2 and arrive at board of elections by Nov. 13 will be counted in the final vote tally.

Boards of elections can begin tallying the official canvass on Nov. 14 and final official results and reports are due to the Ohio Secretary of State no later than 2 p.m. on Nov. 24.

Any recounts for the election of presidential electors must be completed no later than Dec. 8. An automatic recount for votes for president would be triggered “when the difference between votes cast for the declared winning nominee, candidate, question, or issue and the declared defeated nominee, candidate, question, or issue is equal to or less than one-fourth of one percent (0.25%) of the total votes cast in the race or issue.”

A candidate who was not declared nominated or elected may make written application to the appropriate election officials for a recount of votes cast in the contest in some or all of the precincts where the contest was put before the voters. The candidate must pay for the recount, unless:

  • The total number of votes cast in such precinct for the applicant, as recorded by the recount, is more than 4 percent larger than the number of votes for the applicant in that precinct recorded in the original certified abstract; or
  • The candidate applicant is declared nominated or elected, or the result of the issue election is declared to be opposite to the original declaration of result.

An application to request a recount must be filed not later than five days after official election results are declared.

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