Ohio University’s directive Tuesday that students not return to campus from spring break due to concern about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) could impact the local turnout Tuesday during Ohio’s primary election.
The main reason? Many students likely won’t be present in town to vote in person.
However, there are ways to get around that issue, though the deadline is rapidly approaching for some of those methods.
Athens County Board of Elections Director Debbie Quivey said Wednesday that students who are registered to vote in Athens County generally have three options to vote if they aren’t physically present.
• The first solution for students who live in Ohio is for them to go to their local board of election (wherever they live when they’re not in Athens) and request a “provisional ballot.” Basically, they can request a form from their home county’s board of elections and change their voter registration from Athens to their current county of residence. That way, they can still vote in the primary. However, those students will still need to change their voter registration back to Athens for the next election if they wish to vote in Athens in the future.
• The second solution is arguably simpler: Just drive back to Athens to vote at the Athens County Board of Elections on South Court Street (next to the Courthouse). Early voting is still available at the Board of Elections, and that office will be open over the weekend (you can see its hours online).
• The third solution is to request an absentee ballot via mail from the Athens County Board of Elections. However, the deadline to do this is rapidly approaching. Quivey said that anybody interested in doing so should print out the absentee ballot request form located on the Board of Elections website (by going here), fill it out, and mail it to the Athens County Board of Elections. The deadline to request such a ballot is noon on Saturday, March 14 (this weekend). The board will then send an absentee ballot to your address, and you can fill it out and send it back.
Quivey noted that the Board of Elections has a mandated webinar with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office Wednesday. Currently, no polling locations have changed in Athens County due to the first reported cases of coronavirus being confirmed in Ohio.