Ohio Lawmakers Extend Mail-In Voting for Primary Election

Kegler Brown Government Affairs Update

Ohio voters have until late April to mail in ballots for the state’s primary election under a plan approved Wednesday by legislators.

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the election change as part of a comprehensive coronavirus response measure passed by the Legislature.

A day before the March 17 primary, the election was disrupted when DeWine told Ohioans he didn’t believe in-person voting was safe given the coronavirus outbreak. DeWine said he also didn’t want to force voters to choose between their health and their vote.

DeWine said he lacked the authority to postpone the election. Instead, his administration supported a lawsuit seeking a delay. When a judge ruled against it, DeWine’s health director issued an order shutting down polling places.

The all-mail election plan adopted by lawmakers requires voters to complete ballots and postmark them by April 27. Election officials will start to count votes on April 28. Only a limited number of voters – such as those who are disabled – are able to vote in person.

Under the law, all registered voters will receive a postcard instructing them on how they can request a ballot. After voters make the request, election officials will mail a blank ballot with a postage-paid envelope.

Voting rights groups have expressed concern that late April is too tight of a time frame for the mail-in process and it could possibly disenfranchise voters. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he also has reservations, but would work hard to hold a successful election.

A lawsuit potentially could emerge from this, and we’ll keep you informed if that does happen.

Regardless, Ohioans can begin voting – again. And here are step-by-step instructions on the voting process in this election:

  • There will be no in-person voting for most people.
  • If you need to vote in person because of a disability, you can skip these steps and vote in person at your local county Board of Elections on April 28 only.
  • Application for Absentee Ballot to Vote by Mail. This link takes you directly to the Secretary of State’s website with further instructions. If you want to print off and fill in a blank absentee ballot click here. This is a primary, so remember to pick ONE party (or issues only) for your ballot. Print and sign.
  • Mail your request form to your local county's Board of Elections.
  • You will receive a ballot in the mail. Once you get it, complete it and mail it back with the stated postage. Act fast – it must be mailed and postmarked by April 27 (meaning, it has to be in the mail before April 28).
  • If you have already voted, you are done! Your job now is to share this information with others. This is an unprecedented situation and people will need to know the new procedures.