A voter departs a polling place in Hilliard in Franklin County, capping a smooth day of voting in Ohio. Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal
When absentee and early votes were reported Tuesday night in Ohio, Joe Biden jumped out to a big lead, as expected. Then, as Election Day votes started coming in, Donald Trump made up all that ground and then some.
As of 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Trump was leading with 53.5% of the vote compared to 45% for Biden.
That would put Trump in the same territory as the margin by which he won Ohio in 2016, despite polling that put the state much closer to a toss-up this time around. But one Ohio political expert said to expect tightening over the coming week — although it likely won’t be enough to put Biden over the top in the Buckeye State.
The expected tightening is because the smaller counties expected to vote for Trump had reported all or nearly all their votes. Meanwhile some of the state’s largest counties, which tilt heavily toward Biden, had not. Lucas County, home to Toledo, had reported less than 40% of its votes as of 11:30 p.m., for example. Hamilton County (Cincinnati) still had more than 10% of its precincts to report and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) still had about 8% to report.
And as those votes are reported, the state’s number of outstanding votes was increasing. Those are outstanding absentee and provisional ballots.
The number is probably so high because provisional votes were coming in from voters who requested absentee ballots and then decided to vote in person on Election Day, said Paul Beck, Ohio State political science professor emeritus. That number stood at 277,000 as midnight approached.
“Once we know what the outstanding votes are, we’ll know a lot more,” he said.
But it seemed unlikely that whatever share of those late-reporting and outstanding ballots Biden gets will be enough to erase a Trump lead that stood at about 471,000 votes, Beck said.
“The Trump lead as I see it right now is too big for Biden to overcome,” he said.
And indeed, ABC called the Buckeye State for Trump around midnight.
However, it will be seven days before elections officials will be able to go through those ballots to cure things such as mismatching signatures and lack of required ID at polling places. As that process takes place and those votes trickle in, they could be enough to swing some races other than that for president, Beck said.
The trickling results capped a mostly smooth day of voting across Ohio.
Around 4 p.m. at Hoffman Trails Elementary School in Hilliard, poll workers said the site had been busy early in the morning. But by that point voters were trickling in and out.
As she emerged, Louise Vaselakes, 79, said she identifies as an independent and often splits her ticket. This year, however, the retired nurse said she was turned off by Trump’s divisiveness.
“I feel the Biden will unite us,” she said.
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