The Ohio General Assembly approved a plan Wednesday to extend absentee voting for the 2020 primary election until April 28 and eliminate most in-person voting.
Lawmakers overruled Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s previous directive to hold the election on June 2. This comes after Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration ordered polling locations closed on March 17 due to the coronavirus, just hours before the polls were set to open.
“I think that the situation that we’re in is unique, and everybody is really just trying to address the balancing of people’s right to vote with the need to keep people safe from the coronavirus,” said Terrie Nielsen, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections.
Ballots submitted before March 17 will count, but anyone who has not cast their vote can request an absentee ballot through the Absentee Ballot Application on the Portage County Board of Elections’ website.
Those without access to the internet or a printer can call the Portage County Board of Elections at (330) 297-3511 and request an application via mail.
The application cannot be submitted electronically since it requires the applicant to provide an original signature and one form of identification. This can include your Ohio driver's license number, the last four digits of your social security number, a copy of a current and valid photo identification, or another government document (other than a voter registration notification mailed by a board of elections) that shows your name and current address.
Voters should indicate what type of ballot they want to receive—Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or issues only.
Absentee ballot applications must be received by the board of elections no later than noon on April 25 if by mail or by 2 p.m. on April 27 if in person. “I would encourage them to go online and get their application online and send it in to us so we can get you a ballot as soon as we’re able to,” Nielsen said.
Once the board of elections receives a properly completed application, it will mail the ballot of your choice.
“They complete that ballot in the comfy of their own home and mail it back to us or drop it off at the office,” Nielsen said.
Mailed ballots must be postmarked by April 27. Voters can also place ballots in the drop box located at the Portage County Administration Building at 449 South Meridian Street in Ravenna through 7:30 p.m. on April 28.
People with disabilities who “would require the use of our Americans with Disabilities compliant voting machines” are permitted to vote in-person at the board of elections on April 28, Nielsen said.
As of March 17, 2020, 6,055 absentee ballots were requested. While Nielsen said there will be substantially more absentee voters by the end of this primary election, she is unsure if voter turnout will be affected.
“This is outside of our experience. We’re hoping that the turnout will be at least as good as it was for the similarly situated election, so somewhere between 25 and 30 percent turnout,” she said.
Tabulation of votes will begin on April 28 after 7:30 p.m. Final unofficial results will not be available until May 8, which is standard for absentee ballots in every election, according to the Secretary of State’s website.
“I would encourage everybody to be patient. This is a new process for everybody,” Nielsen said.
Jenna Borthwick is the TV2 news director. Contact her at email@example.com.