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Lawmakers Extend Primary Absentee Voting, But Not Date Of Primary

Mar 26, 2020

A box to drop off absentee ballots sits in the parking lot of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland.
Credit Karen Kasler

The bill that made some changes across state law related to coronavirus also set a new ending for the Ohio primary, after polling places were shut down just hours before election day.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said one thing is clear – the primary wasn’t cancelled or postponed.

“The primary has come and gone – it was March 17. What we did was we extended the opportunity for absentee voting for that March 17 primary," Householder said.

The legislation sets April 28 as the final day for mail in voting only – the polls won’t be open for a day of in-person voting because lawmakers said there was no date they could select that they knew would be safe. April 28 was the date suggested in a lawsuit filed by the Ohio Democratic Party. Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose had suggested an election day of June 2.

The ACLU of Ohio’s Gary Daniels says mail-in voting disenfranchises some voters.

“We certainly urge flexibility and creativity when it comes to making sure that as many people are as enfranchised as possible and be able to vote," Daniels said.

There will be exceptions to the mail-in only decision for people with disabilities.

The League of Women Voters opposes the change, saying it wants, among other things, reopened voter registration.

Because the date of the election was not officially changed, lawmakers say they don’t have to reopen voter registration.