COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With the final 100 days counting down until the General Election, Ohio voters, political parties and election officials are all bracing for something unprecedented.
In the months since the COVID-19 health crisis derailed the state’s Primary Election, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has been navigating the challenges anticipated in November. In early June, LaRose and the Ohio Association of Elections Officials launched the Ready for November Task Force to discuss best practices and troubleshoot potential issues.
More voting by mail
One of the biggest changes proposed to limit the spread of the virus and the burden on poll staff is encouraging more voters to cast ballots by mail.
Ohio law requires absentee ballot applications to be submitted three days before an election. LaRose says the short window of time is “logistically impossible, creates a likelihood that voters will not receive their ballot on time and encourages procrastination.”
House Bill 680 currently under consideration would expand the application request deadline to seven days prior to an election. Another of the bill’s provisions would authorize paid postage for voters returning ballots.
The Ohio Controlling Board already approved federal dollars to cover the cost of sending applications to 7.8 million registered voters. You can expect the forms to arrive in the mail around Labor Day. You can also request an application here.
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 or returned to a county Board of Elections ballot box by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Early in-person voting is scheduled to begin on October 6th. LaRose has proposed giving individual boards of elections more flexibility to determine polling places, number of poll workers and number of machines available for in-person voting.
The legislature voted to make the extended March 17 Primary Election mail-in only. So far, it has not issued any similar restrictions for the General Election.
Staffing the polls
With an anticipated shortage of poll workers, extra effort is focused on recruiting. In Franklin County, the Board of Elections is looking to hire more than 5,000 poll workers to staff the county’s 330 polling locations. Statewide, the Secretary of State says any given election needs at least 350,000 workers.
As an incentive, the Ohio Supreme Court recently issued an order to allow attorneys to receive Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for serving as precinct election officials.
Because poll workers tend to be older and more susceptible to COVID-19, LaRose is encouraging more young people to get involved. He’s also asked businesses and corporations to give their employees paid time off to work the polls.
You can sign up to be a precinct election official here.
Democrats and Republicans are focusing on voter turnout and drumming up support for their candidates. Leaders of both parties in Ohio say the next 100 days are crucial to their campaigns.
“This election is going to be not just about getting out the vote. But with all that’s happening, it’s also going to be about protecting the right to vote,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper.
He said after President Trump’s decisive win in Ohio in 2016, early signs are pointing to a swell in Democratic support in 2020. His optimism was bolstered by recent news that former Republican Governor John Kasich may be speaking at the Democratic National Convention on behalf of likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden. In addition, Pepper believes Ohio voters may lose confidence in the GOP following allegations of bribery against the former state Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and current Speaker of the House Larry Householder.
Many prominent Republicans, including Governor Mike DeWine and state party Chairman Jane Timken, have called for Householder’s resignation. Communications director Evan Machan touted President Trump’s economic success and slammed the Ohio Democratic Party for receiving federal COVID-19 financial relief from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“President Trump will be re-elected in November and will win Ohio. Our grassroots fervor and data program are top-notch and vastly outmatch the Democrats. While the Ohio Democratic Party is wrapped up in taking money from the PPP program and David Pepper cowering from speaking up about it, our volunteers are out engaging with voters on key issues day in and day out,” Machan said in a statement.
Democrats say they followed the correct PPP procedures and were transparent about it.
Registering to Vote
Ohioans wishing to cast a ballot on Nov. 3, must register to vote by Oct. 5. You can register or check your current registration here.
The Ready for November Task Force will hold its next meeting on Aug. 6.