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Ohio voting will be by mail; No Election Day

Election Day in Ohio is neither March 17 nor June 2.

The Ohio primary will be decided on April 28.

But outside of those with qualifying disabilities, only absentee ballots will be added to early votes.

Today, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to sign into law Ohio House Bill 197, approved Wednesday in both chambers of the General Assembly.

On Thursday, the Ohio Democratic Party also dropped its lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court concerning Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s initial plan to hold the election on June 2. That plan was announced after an 11th-hour cancellation of the original primary date, March 17, the evening prior to when polls were scheduled to open.

LaRose was denied his June 2 date by legislators this week and the only primary voting now allowed to occur must be completed by April 28.

All absentee ballots must be requested from local boards of elections by April 25 and must be postmarked by April 28 to count.

“We should have the unofficial canvas numbers on April 28, just like a normal election day,” Washington County Board of Elections Chairman Dennis Sipe said Thursday. “Then, like any other election, there’d still be the provisional ballots and unaccounted for but postmarked ballots to count.”

But, he said he still believes moving the primary was the right call.

“The whole point was to slow this virus down,” Sipe said.

He said the board has been in constant contact with a lobbyist in Columbus the past few days who was advocating on behalf of boards across the state.

“I spoke with him two days before the passage of the bill, one of my observations to him was that scientists are worried about a yo-yo effect,” said Sipe, explaining if social distancing measures are lightened, additional spikes in infection may occur.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, had similar sentiments Thursday during the governor’s daily press conference.

“Anytime we let up on these measures, we will see surges again,” Acton said.

Sipe and Washington County Board of Elections Director Mandy Amos said the logistics are still to be ironed out by local boards and election staff.

“We’re waiting to hear exactly when we can send the ballots out,” said Amos. “We have taken applications since that first directive, probably close to 500 have come in.”

Sipe said the spread of COVID-19 will allow Ohio to truly test its mail-in system.

“Certainly this would be sort of a test-drive, see how many really participate when it’s their only option if they didn’t vote early,” he said. “The only exception to voting by mail now, potentially, is if an individual has a handicap that would prevent using that paper ballot.”

Sipe said that during a regular general election or primary, the board office must offer two alternatives to adults with qualifying disabilities.

“One is in the office, for the sight-impaired we have that station (which allows for an audio ballot),” Sipe said.

The other option, Amos explained, is reserved for individuals who are bed-ridden, where both a Democrat and a Republican election official physically go to the voter’s residence or bedside.

“In those two instances, as it’s occurred to me, I’ve asked the staff to look into the cost of acquiring hazmat suits,” said Sipe. “We don’t want to put our people at risk or have an employee asymptomatic but contagious and infect the public.”

Sipe said the scheduling of a special board meeting to review the new date and any additional directives from LaRose may be expected next week.

The board’s regular business meeting is scheduled for the following week on April 8.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

How to vote:

Vote by mail ballots must be requested by April 25 and returned by April 28.

Voters who already voted do not need to request a new ballot. Ballots already received by mail or in-person will be included for this election.

Voters can obtain absentee ballots three ways:

1. Voters can download the application document to request an absentee ballot at boe.ohio.gov/washington and print off the application to mail to the BOE office.

2. Voters may email a request for the application by including your name, mailing address, contact information and the number of applications needed to washingt@ohiosos.gov

.

3. If you do not have access to print off the application or email, call the office and leave a detailed message to request an application be mailed to you.

The Washington County Board of Elections office is located at 204 Davis Ave., Suite B, Marietta.

The BOE office may be reached at 740-374-6828.

** Absentee applications must be printed and mailed to the BOE office.

** Absentee Applications sent by email will not be accepted.

Source: Washington County Board of Elections.

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