As you know, the pandemic has only gotten worse, as has the disruption to normal life. Politics may seem superficial in these trying times. However, it is primarily politicians, from the White House to the Statehouse, who are deciding how we collectively respond to this crisis. Nothing can show more clearly than the Covid-19 crisis that who we put in positions of power in government matters, a lot.
The General Assembly has enacted a procedure for completing the Ohio primary election which was supposed to occur on March 17, 2020. Since court challenges to this new procedure have, so far, failed; it seems likely this is the procedure which will be used.
In summary, there will not be any in-person voting at polling places as part of this primary election. Registered voters who have not already voted either by mail or by in-person early voting at the Board of Elections (BOE) have until noon on April 25 to deliver an application for an absentee ballot to the BOE. That request must be in writing. The application for an absentee ballot may be downloaded from the home page of the BOE website at boe.clermontcountyohio.gov. That form must be returned to the BOE by mail. Voters who submit an application will be sent an absentee ballot along with a postage paid envelope to use to send the voted ballot back to the BOE. The voted ballot must either be postmarked no later than April 27 or must be hand delivered to the BOE at 76 South Riverside Drive, Batavia, Ohio 45103 by no later than 7:30 p.m. on April 28. There is a drop-box for voted ballots outside the BOE office in Batavia.
Voters who already have an absentee ballot but who did not mail that ballot back in by the original March 16 deadline may vote the ballot they have and send it to the BOE. If you already have an absentee ballot for the 2020 primary election, you do not need to request a second ballot. Please encourage everyone to apply for an absentee ballot and to vote and return that ballot as soon as possible. People should not wait until the deadlines to ask for their ballot or to return their voted ballot.
People who cannot manually mark a traditional printed ballot, perhaps because of blindness or impaired use of limbs, will be allowed to vote on special equipment at the BOE office in Batavia on April 28. Apart from those voters, no one who has not already voted will be able to vote in person anywhere in Ohio. Voting must be done by mail in this election.
In the last week, I have seen several posts on social media from people complaining that they are being asked whether they want a Democratic or Republican ballot. The purpose of a primary election is to select the parties’ candidates who will appear on the general election ballot in November. This is how you declare your political party in Ohio. Issues, such as school tax levies, appear on both the Democratic and Republican primary ballots. Voters may also request an “issues only” ballot. That ballot does not have any candidates on it. If there is no issue to be voted on in the voter’s precinct, there is no “issues only” ballot for the voter to vote.
Votes will be counted on the evening of April 28. That count will produce an unofficial result which will be released to the public. By law, the BOE must complete the “canvass” and announce an official result no later than May 19, 2020.
By law, all Ohio county parties are required to hold their reorganization meeting no sooner than six days after the BOE announces the official results of the primary and no later than fifteen days after official results are announced. It is unclear at this time whether that deadline will be impacted by the Governor’s ban on large meetings. ODP has stated that, if certain conditions are met, it is permissible to hold a reorganization meeting virtually. At present, CCDP does not have the technical capability to do that. However, we may be forced to acquire that capability. I encourage anyone who has recent experience participating in a large virtual meeting to reach out to me.
In a crisis, people want “strong leadership.” The distance between “strong leadership” and totalitarianism is not very great. As we navigate this strange new Covoid-19 world, we cannot forget that it is imperative that we preserve both our democracy and our Democratic values.