Voting is one of our most valued privileges as American citizens. With our vote, we hold in our hands the ability to choose our future.
The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic disrupted Ohio’s planned primary election on March 17, 2020. Governor DeWine and his administration were forced to make the difficult decision to postpone the primary date in the interest of public health. What transpired that day is unprecedented in modern times but was necessary to avoid substantial health risks to both poll workers and to voters themselves.
Since that time, the legislature has passed new, emergency legislation that will allow Ohioans to continue voting through an extended absentee voting process. Last week the Ohio Senate and Ohio House of Representatives each unanimously passed a bill extending absentee voting for Ohio’s primary election to April 28. This allows Ohioans who were not able to vote in person on March 17 to submit their vote via an absentee ballot. Governor DeWine signed this bill into law on Friday, March 27.
In order to vote, you must first apply for an absentee ballot, if you have not already done so. Registered voters can obtain their absentee vote-by-mail application online at VoteOhio.gov. You can also call your board of elections to request the application be mailed to you. Your application must be promptly and correctly completed and mailed back to your local board of elections – the deadline to request a ballot is noon on April 25.
Your ballot will be sent to you with a postage-paid reply envelope. You must cast your vote and return your ballot to your local board of elections, postmarked by April 27. It can also be taken to a drop box at your local board of elections. Because it is unknown how long the COVID-19 virus will remain a threat, there will be no in-person voting date conducted for this primary election.
The legislature has also directed the Secretary of State to mail every registered Ohio voter an informational postcard to explain how to obtain an absentee ballot and vote by mail. And rest assured that all votes cast prior to March 17 will be counted.
While this situation is not ideal, I believe that Governor DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose have shown strong leadership under very difficult circumstances. You should have every confidence that Ohio will conduct a fair, transparent and safe election. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said during one of the most tumultuous times in our nation’s history, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do that is by not voting.”
Coronavirus does not deprive us of this opportunity. It will not decide our future. We will. With our response, our attitudes, and our votes, we will navigate these disruptions, prevail over these setbacks, and preserve our future.
For more information on Ohio’s primary process or elections in general, visit www.VoteOhio.gov. For coronavirus information, prevention guidelines and resources, visit www.coronavirus.ohio.gov or call the Ohio Department of Health at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
Larry Obhof is president of the Ohio Senate. He represents the 22nd Ohio Senate District. For information, visit www.ohiosenate.gov/obhof, email Obhof@OhioSenate.gov or call 614-466-7505.