You’re going to need a postage stamp to get the ball rolling if you haven’t already voted in the Ohio primary, now being conducted by U.S. mail and with polls closing April 28.
If you already voted by mail or exercised the early, in-person option in the primary, your vote has been submitted and you do not need to take further action.
Otherwise, ballot requests must be made by noon April 25 for most voters. Ballots have to be postmarked by April 27 according to guidelines set forth when Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill on March 27 extending the election that had been scheduled for March 17.
A federal judge denied a temporary restraining order to voter advocates seeking to extend the registration deadline and make other changes to the election plan outlined in House Bill 197, which passed the General Assembly unanimously. In-person polling was blocked by the state as part of restrictions on public gatherings to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office said it will be sending out 7.8 million postcards to Ohio voters explaining the retooled procedure.
How to request ballot
Although there are three different ways that voters can submit a request for a ballot, all of them require mailing a document back to the county board of elections at the voter’s own expense Here are the options:
• Visit VoteOhio.gov, print, and fill out the vote-by-mail ballot request form, sign it, affix postage, and mail it to your county board of elections.
• Call your county board of elections and ask them to send you a ballot request form, fill out the form, sign it, affix postage, and mail it to your county board of elections.
• If you cannot use a printer to create your own form, you can write the following information on a blank sheet of paper: Full name, date of birth, full registration address (including county), address where ballot should be mailed if different from your registration address, and either your Ohio driver’s license number, the last four digits of your Social Security number or a copy of an acceptable form of identification. The request must include the statement: "I’m a qualified elector and I’m requesting an absentee ballot for the March 17th Ohio primary" and indicate one ballot selection from among the following: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, or Issues. The request must be signed and dated; phone number and email address are optional but suggested. Affix postage and mail the form to your county board of elections.
As outlined by the legislation, the ballot will be sent out with a postage paid envelope in which to return it. Voters also can drop off their ballots at the county board of elections by 7:30 p.m. April 28. Voters with disabilities, such as visual impairment, and those who are unable to receive mail may cast ballots in person at their county voting center on April 28.
Information may also be found at the Summit County Board of Elections website, www.summitcountyboe.gov, or by calling 330-643-5200. Its address is 470 Grant St., Akron, 44311.
Groups’ request denied
The League of Women Voters of Ohio, meanwhile, released a statement saying it was disappointed that the U.S. District Court Southern District of Ohio denied its request to order changes to the reformatted primary.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Watson sided with state attorneys in the case brought by the League of Women Voters and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. The state’s position is that changing the election again would sow more confusion among voters
The groups had argued that the new plan violated the National Voter Registration Act and the First and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
They were seeking to extend the primary election’s voter registration deadline, to require boards of elections to mail postage-paid primary ballots to all registered voters who haven’t already voted, and to schedule a new end date for the primary election.
"We remain deeply concerned that thousands of voters will be denied the vote, given how much must be done for Ohio to conduct a virtually all-mail election for the first time in a state where 85% of citizens traditionally vote in person on Election Day," the League of Women Voters said in a news release. It said voters of color, those with low income, people with disabilities, and students were disproportionately at risk of having their rights denied.
"We will be watching the execution of the April 28 primary closely, the statement said. "If Ohio’s process prevents people from voting, it will have denied its citizens’ fundamental rights. And the state will hear from us."
Joe Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal and Rick Rouan of the Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.