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After COVID-19 Postponement, Ohio's Primary Election Day Is Finally Here

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

Ohio’s extended primary election comes to an end Tuesday night, six weeks after state officials closed polling places as part of the effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The state legislature’s COVID-19 response bill moved the primary from March 17 to April 28, an earlier date than Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose had originally sought.

The state required ballots to be postmarked by April 27 to be counted. Voters who have yet to mail their absentee ballots may drop them off at county election boards by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Nearly 1.5 million Ohio voters have already cast ballots, according to LaRose’s office. In all, almost 2 million requested vote-by-mail ballots.

Lawmakers allowed voters who are disabled or homeless to vote in person at county boards of elections. Ohioans who requested absentee ballots by the April 25 deadline but haven’t received them by Tuesday may vote provisionally in person, LaRose said on Twitter last week.

LaRose also said last week that the U.S. Postal Service agreed to speed up absentee ballot delivery in the state.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections will be taking the temperatures of those who show up to vote in person, spokesman Mike West said. Those with fevers will be allowed vote in an isolated area, he said.

“We also are highly recommending people wear their masks,” West said. “Inside the building, we’ll be constantly cleaning and disinfecting throughout the day.”

In Cuyahoga County, more than 171,000 voters had returned vote-by-mail ballots as of Monday, according to the board. A quarter of registered voters in the county — about 215,000 people — have requested ballots.

Voters in Cuyahoga County can use the Track My Ballot feature on the board’s website to see whether their ballots have been delivered.

The election delay threw local campaigns into limbo. Cuyahoga County is seeking a replacement and increase to one of its property tax levies for health and human services. School districts have had to contend with financial uncertainties on top of distance learning as school levies wait for voter approval. Numerous candidates are vying in contested primary races judgeships and other local offices.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.