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Don’t wait to request a ballot

If you want to vote in this primary and haven’t yet requested a ballot, you’d better get moving.

While the primary has been postponed to April 28, voters must get their ballots postmarked by April 27 and have them arrive at county boards of elections by May 8 to be counted.

After Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, canceled the March 17 in-person primary — at the request of Gov. Mike DeWine — out of public health concerns because of the COVID-19 pandemic, voters started requesting ballots from boards of elections.

DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose had recommended June 2 as the primary date with the hope that in-person voting could occur by then.

But the state Legislature decided June 2 was too late for the primary and voted to make April 28 the date with no in-person voting except for those with qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and those without access to the postal system, primarily the homeless.

Voters who requested ballots shortly after the postponement had to wait almost two weeks to get them by mail, after LaRose’s office authorized mailing them.

As a result, county boards of elections were bombarded with telephone calls from those wondering where their ballots were, on top of numerous others who requested absentee applications be sent to them — and plenty of other questions.

The Legislature should have done a better job coordinating this election with LaRose’s office.

I understand the thought behind June 2 being too late, but LaRose had told legislators that was the earliest the state election system could handle this primary.

In hindsight, the dispute to have the primary on the same date as St. Patrick’s Day seems silly.

The election will happen April 28, but we’re already seeing problems with the system being stretched too thin, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.

That’s why it’s important for those who haven’t requested an absentee ballot to do it right away. Also, once you get a ballot — or if you’ve got one — don’t waste time sending it back.

The postal system is already being pushed to the limit and with thousands and thousands of ballots being mailed, there’s the likelihood of delays.

Thomas McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, said a problem at Mahoning — and other county boards — “is we can’t find enough help. We’re doing the best we can.”

The Mahoning board is turning around requests in 24 hours. It’s taking one to two days at the Trumbull County Board of Elections.

But the sooner you do it, the better.

One issue with the way mail voting is being done is a person has to request an absentee application, have it delivered, fill it out correctly and then mail it back to the board of elections or drop it off at the board office. From there, the board mails a ballot and after that arrives, voters have to fill them out and return them.

It is a lengthy process.

Also, you have to fill out the application correctly.

The local boards have received ballot requests from voters who don’t include if they want Republican, Democratic or issue-only ballots. If voters who make that oversight provide a telephone number or email address, the boards can contact them to get that information. If they don’t, well, the board has to send a letter to voters about that problem causing further delays.

Some who want to vote in this primary won’t be able to because of mistakes or time constraints.

This pandemic has changed the way we live our daily lives and voting is part of that.

For those who haven’t requested an absentee ballot, you can print your request from the Ohio secretary of state’s website — voteohiogov.

If you live in Trumbull County, go to the board of elections’ website at boe.co.trumbull.oh.us. Mahoning County residents may go to mahoningcountyoh.gov. Also, if time is running out, you can deliver your ballot to dropboxes outside the offices until 7:30 p.m. April 28.

The Trumbull office is 2947 Youngstown Road SE, Warren, OH 44484.

The Mahoning office is 345 Oak Hill Ave., Suite 101, Youngstown, OH 44502.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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