Thursday, March 26, 2020

Ohio Legislature Unanimously Passes Bill to Transition to Absentee Vote-By-Mail in Presidential Primary

The Ohio legislature on Wednesday, March 25 unanimously passed legislation mapping out a finish to the March 17 presidential primary that was postponed.

Both the Ohio state House and Senate made quick work of an omnibus bill -- HB 197 -- dealing with broader coronavirus concerns. And part of that was finalizing how to complete the March 17 presidential primary election. In the bill, the provisions with direct influence on the presidential primary call for...
  1. The bill voids of Secretary of State LaRose's (R) March 16 directive postponing the March 17 primary and moving it to June 2. That change is now nullified. 
  2. In its place will be an absentee voting system to handled almost completely by mail. [The only exceptions to that are those voters with disabilities, cannot receive mail at their address or have some other need for accommodations/in-person voting.]
  3. Voters who cast ballots either early or absentee ahead of the March 17 primary will have their votes counted. That total comes to 523,522 early or absentee votes with another 66,723 requested absentee ballots outstanding. That latter group can still submit their ballots and have them counted. 
  4. All voters who registered to vote before February 18, 2020 and who did not vote early or absentee can request an absentee ballot in lieu of any in-person voting. All registered Ohio voters will receive a postcard from the secretary of state informing them of the ways in which they can participate, including absentee vote-by-mail. 
  5. Any voter who registered after February 18 is ineligible to participate. In fact, the bill calls on county boards of elections not to process those registrations at this time. 
  6. Voters can request an absentee ballot by printing off their own copy or by contacting their county board of elections. Voters will be required to pay postage to return those absentee requests. Should those requests be deemed valid by county elections administrators, then valid application voters will be sent an absentee ballot with pre-paid postage for returning it. 
  7. The deadline for returning ballots is April 28, 2020, but if the ballot is postmarked by April 27, then they will be accepted until May 8, 2020
The office of the secretary of state estimates that postcard notifications will be delivered sometime during the second week of April meaning that voters prompted by the postcards will have between 16-22 days to print off an absentee request, mail it to the county board of elections (with voter-paid postage), wait for the absentee ballot to arrive by mail, and return the completed ballot (postmarked) by April 27. That is a lot to ask of voters -- a lot of changes to throw at them -- in such a short period of time.

But it will allow Ohio to complete the voting that started before the original March 17 primary in a manner that greatly reduces face-to-face contact between the voters themselves not to mention voters and poll workers, and thus, the risk of further spread of the coronavirus.

The bill is set to take effect immediately upon Governor DeWine's (R) signature.

Regardless, April 28 is now just 33 days away.

Related Posts:
Ohio Presidential Primary Postponed Until June 2

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