Roughly 33 percent of the more than 5.6 million votes cast in the November election were from absentee ballots, according to reports released Wednesday from Secretary of State Jon Husted. The early ballots accounted for about 30 percent of the overall votes cast in 2008.
Voters in Ohio can cast an absentee ballot early by mail or in person without giving any reason.
Husted, a Republican, attributed the boost to uniform days and hours for in-person voting. Plus, the state sent absentee ballot applications to millions of registered voters statewide for the first time last year. Almost 1.3 million Ohioans voted an absentee ballot by mail, while more than 600,000 cast an absentee ballot in person.
A higher number of provisional ballots also were counted last year, about 84 percent compared with 80 percent in 2008. Provisional ballots include those cast when voters don't bring proper ID to the polls or cast them in the wrong precinct.
More 34,000 provisional ballots were rejected this past fall, while nearly 40,000 provisional ballots were tossed out in 2008. Husted said the majority of those rejected weren't eligible to be counted because the person was not registered to vote in Ohio.
Overall, statewide voter turnout was 70.5 percent for the last year's election, compared with nearly 70 percent in 2008.
State lawmakers have been mulling whether to update Ohio's election law after the campaign season was marked by several lawsuits that included challenges to the state's early voting and provisional ballot rules. It's not yet clear whether a proposal will be brought forward in the new legislative session that began this week.
Husted has suggested that Ohio's voting hours and days should be written into state law, along with its rules on provisional ballots.
On Wednesday, he reinforced the need for those changes during a speech to a conference of local election officials. He also advocated for online voter registration and absentee ballot requests.
"For reasonable people, there is nothing controversial here; it represents steady progress, but it is important that we get it done," Husted said, according to remarks provided to reporters from his office.