Ohioans finally have guidance on the primary election that was cancelled earlier this month due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis: Mail-in absentee ballots will be accepted through April 28, while in-person voting will only be available to those with disabilities who might need special assistance.
The Ohio Legislature (both the House and Senate) approved a coronavirus-relief-related bill (House Bill 197) earlier this week, and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine today during the state’s daily press conference today (Friday) signed the bill.
As The NEWS reported earlier this month, the polls on the night before the March 17 primary were closed by an order by the Ohio Department of Health, a last-second effort by the DeWine administration meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The bipartisan bill approved by the Ohio House and Senate does not allow any in-person voting to occur outside of in very limited cases for those with disabilities. It also does not extend the deadline that already has passed for people to register to vote. Still, if you have already voted, you do not need to vote again.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how to vote in Athens County:
• Call the Board of Elections to request a copy of the absentee ballot request form (740-592-3201), or otherwise print a copy of the absentee ballot request form by going to https://www.boe.ohio.gov/comoh/Absentee_Request_11-A.pdf. The deadline to request such a ballot is April 25.
• Mail the request form to the Board of Elections. The board is NOT accepting in-person requests or ballot forms.
• The Board of Elections will then mail you back the actual absentee ballot. fill it out and mail it back to the Board of Elections.
Voting-rights groups like the ACLU of Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio have taken issue with that provision of the bill, and also argue that April 28 doesn’t provide enough time to get everybody’s vote in.
“A final Primary Election Day that allows as much time as possible for voters to participate in Ohio’s cumbersome, inefficient vote-by-mail process, while also respecting communities that have levies/issues on the ballot,” the ACLU of Ohio said in a statement on its website. “April 28 is an unacceptable, unworkable date for the primary. At the earliest, we suggest mid May.”
The bill sets out a number of other measures outside of the election, including:
• Waiving K-12 testing and allowing graduation for seniors who are eligible.
• Prohibiting water-service disconnections, authorizing the Ohio EPA to prohibit public water systems from shutting off service to customers for non-payment.
• Allowing for school meal programs to continue into the summer.
• Expand unemployment insurance, which codifies something already set out in an executive order by DeWine
• Permit public meetings to continue electronically.
• Extend the validity of state and local licenses for 90 days, allowing people to wait to renew driver’s licenses and other state licenses.