Results are coming in now from what many consider the most unusual election in Ohio history.
A steady stream of people dropped off absentee ballots as voters trickled into local boards of election to cast ballots in person during today’s primary election, delayed from March 17 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Steve Harsman said that just under 100 people came into their office to vote in person by 1:30 p.m. today but they had retrieved about 2,000 ballots from a drop box outside their building at 451 W. Third St.
When Ohio lawmakers pushed back the primary election to today amid coronavirus concerns, the idea was that most voters would cast ballots by mail. Voting today was supposed to be restricted to people with disabilities and people without home addresses.
But a secretary of state’s directive later said people who requested absentee ballots but didn’t receive them by Election Day could vote by provisional ballot. This led to concerns that there could be long lines at local elections offices.
Coronavirus: Election may still draw thousands in person
A Dayton Daily News reporter visited the Montgomery County Board of Elections around 12:30 p.m. today and found the atrium to the office, in the basement of the county building, was marked with black Xs for people to stand on six feet apart. Workers were separated from voters by a sneeze guard in the area where voters request absentee ballots. A couple dozen voting machines stood unused.
There were no voters there.
“We were prepared for a lot more and it appears to be a lot less at this point,” Harsman said.
He said the machines and other equipment used by voters are wiped down every time they are used.
The reporter then stood outside the building for an hour and spoke to a dozen people who said they came to vote or drop off ballots.
ELECTION 2020: What you need to know about Tuesday’s election
Today was the first time Trevor Andary left the house since the pandemic began for anything other than a medical appointment.
“It’s concerning because I’m in the vulnerable population. I’m a paraplegic. I’m diabetic. I’m overweight,” said Andary, who was in a wheelchair.
But Andary took a bus downtown to cast a ballot today.
“It’s voting,” he said. “It’s a right that I hold precious and I consider it my responsibility, my duty to perform it.”
Neha Van Hoose was excited to vote in her first election since becoming a U.S. citizen last year.
“This is not how I expected this to go at all,” she said.
Van Hoose was dropping off ballots for herself and her husband. She said they requested absentee ballots on April 9 but just received them yesterday.
“By the time we got them it was too late to get to the post office and have them postmarked, so that’s why I’m here,” she said.
Several people said they were voting today because they never got around to requesting an absentee ballot. Harsman said federal law requires the board of elections to provide everyone with a ballot who requests one, but voters who cast a provisional ballot today but didn’t request an absentee ballot won’t be counted.
People expressed confusion about the voting process. One woman said she was voting today because she just heard that the November election was canceled so this was her only chance to vote this year — which is not true.
Montgomery County Board of Elections Chairwoman Rhine McLin expressed concern about the confusion and misinformation. She said she has spoken to people who thought the election was pushed back to June, or others who thought it was cancelled.
It’s unclear what turnout in today’s election will be. Harsman said they sent out about 69,000 ballots and got about 53,000 back. They also had about 6,000 people vote in person before in-person, early voting was restricted in March.
KEY THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT TODAY’S ELECTION
Completed ballots can be dropped off, not mailed
Ballots had to have been postmarked by April 27 to be counted. But boards of election offer drop boxes that most people can use without getting out of their car.
Ballots must be dropped off by 7:30 p.m. today to be counted.
Unofficial results will be quick, official results will not
Local boards of election are already processing mailed ballots. This means initial results — which should include most votes — should come pretty quick after polls close at 7:30 p.m.
Furthermore, usually local elections officials have to wait for votes to be hand-delivered from the far-reaches of their counties to tabulate all the votes. But this year all in-person voting will happen at their office. That should also speed things up.
But ballots mailed in the last allowable days are given until May 8 to arrive, and boards of election have until May 19 to certify official results. So depending on how many of those there were, final results could vary from initial votes cast.
Important local issues and races at stake
Today’s election has long-term implications at the federal, state and local level.
In addition to the presidential primary at the top of the ticket, federal lawmakers are on the ballot. Today’s election will also help decide the makeup of the Ohio General Assembly as well as local races such as elected county officials.
Local issues including police and fire levies and school issues are on the ballot for dozens of area governments, impacting your safety, your children's education and your taxes.
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