Ohio’s vote-by-mail primary set to take place Tuesday
(CNN) — Ohio’s vote-by-mail primary takes place Tuesday after it was pushed back last month just as the coronavirus pandemic forced rallies and other in-person campaigning to grind to a halt.
The state — after a confusing saga that played out hours before voters were set to go to the polls — became the first to delay its contest because of the outbreak.
Absentee ballots needed to be postmarked by Monday in order to count. Voters can also bring ballots to county boards of elections before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. In-person voting is only available on Tuesday to individuals with disabilities who require in-person voting and those who do not have a home mailing address.
A day ahead of the primary, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that more than 1.9 million Ohioans had requested vote-by-mail ballots and that more than 1.4 million ballots had already been cast.
“In a matter of weeks, we’ve done something that’s taken other states years to do — transform our state into one capable of voting entirely by mail,” LaRose said in a statement.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic party’s presumptive nominee, is the only Democratic candidate left in the presidential race, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is still on the ballot, where 136 Democratic delegates are at stake.
Sanders suspended his campaign earlier this month and endorsed Biden, but decided to remain on the ballot in order to amass “as many delegates as possible” as part of an effort, Sanders has said, “to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions” at this summer’s Democratic convention.
President Donald Trump is the Republican party’s presumptive nominee, and is the only Republican in the race.
There are also several down ballot races taking place around the state.
Tuesday’s contest comes after a series of events last month caused confusion over when and how the primary would be conducted. The day before the primary was supposed to take place, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, announced he was recommending the contest be pushed back to June over fears of spreading coronavirus. He said in-person voting did not conform with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines that no gatherings with 50 people or more take place. DeWine said the state “should not force” people to “make this choice” between staying at home and voting.
But the governor’s request to delay the primary was denied that same day by a judge. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye said it would set a “terrible precedent” for a judge to step in 12 hours before polls open, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
The governor’s request was denied, causing confusion in the state over whether the election was still happening. DeWine then said polls would be closed on Election Day because of a health emergency. The order came from the Ohio health director, who ordered the polls closed to “avoid the imminent threat with a high probability of widespread exposure to COVID-19.”
The following morning, Ohio’s Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the poll closure by a candidate for a county judgeship.
In the weeks since then, the Ohio state legislature passed legislation extending mail-in voting in the state’s primary to April 28, and the governor signed it into law. The legislation instructed Ohio’s secretary of state would send a postcard to each registered voter in the state notifying them of how they could obtain an application for an absentee ballot.
LaRose, a Republican, issued a statement at the time saying he had advocated for a different plan, and that it was “disappointing” that the state legislature had “chosen to significantly reduce the time provided for Ohio to bring this primary to a close.” LaRose said the plan that he and the governor and lieutenant governor proposed “would have concluded the election by putting a ballot request directly in the hands of every voter along with a postage-paid return envelope.”