Ohio Primary FAQ: Everything you need to know to cast your ballot

This voting sticker, designed by student Emily Legg, was chosen in May to be the new sticker in Ohio. Photo courtesy the Secretary of State's Office.

Note: This story includes the best available information drawn from the newly-passed legislation, the Ohio Secretary of State’s website and contact with county boards of election offices. We will update and add to this Q&A as necessary. If you have further questions, reach out to the Ohio Capital Journal on Twitter/Facebook or email the reporter at [email protected]

Voting for the 2020 Ohio Primary Election has been extended through April 28.

The Ohio General Assembly voted on Wednesday to extend voting through a mail-only system. The March 17 election was postponed due to COVID-19 health concerns. 

Here are some questions and answers about how to vote and what is going on: 

I voted early. Am I good to go?

Yes. Anybody who already cast a ballot in person or by mail is all set. Your vote is securely stored and will be counted as normal when the time comes.

I haven’t voted yet. When is Election Day?

There will be no traditional in-person Election Day like was planned for March 17. Ohioans will be casting their primary ballots through the mail.

What do I need to do?

This process isn’t complicated, but does have several steps. So long as you follow the instructions and get moving on this, you’ll have no trouble getting your ballot sent in time.

Simply put: you have to request an absentee ballot from your county’s board of elections office. Then you will receive a blank ballot in the mail for you to fill out and mail back to them.

How do I request a ballot?

There are several ways to do this.

If you have a printer, the Ohio Secretary of State website has a blank application request form you can fill out and print yourself. Click here for that request form. If you don’t have a printer…

Or, you may be able to pick-up an application at the office. (Note: many offices have limited public hours due to the COVID-19 health concerns. You should check your office’s website or call ahead of time to see if this option is available.)

Here is a directory of county boards of elections’ addresses and phone numbers. 

What’s the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot?

Your county office must receive your absentee request by Saturday, April 25 at noon.

What happens after I submit my ballot request?

The county will then mail your blank ballot to you. Included will be pre-paid postage to mail the ballot back to the board of elections office.

What’s the deadline for mailing my completed ballot back?

It must be postmarked by April 27 to be counted by your board of elections. If postmarked in time, the office will accept received ballots through May 8.

Can I drop off my completed ballot instead?

Yes. Each county board of elections office will have a “secure receptacle” outside the office for the return of ballots. It must be dropped off by 7:30 p.m. on April 28. 

I’m not sure if I’m registered to vote. How do I check?

Click here for Ohio’s official voter registration search. All you have to do is enter your name and county. 

Problem: My voter registration is not updated and lists a different address than where I currently live. Can I still vote?

Yes. Send an absentee ballot request to your current county’s board of elections and the office will send you a provisional ballot. (Read more about provisional ballots here.)

I am not registered to vote in Ohio. Do I have time to get registered and cast a ballot for the primary election? 

No. The law passed by the Ohio General Assembly limits voting access only to those who were eligible to vote on March 17. You are still encouraged to register now to be eligible for future elections. 

I’m a college student who is registered to vote in my college town, but I’m stuck back in my hometown (or elsewhere). Which county office should I deal with?

You should request a ballot from the county in which you are registered to vote. Click here to check your voter registration. 

Are there any exceptions to this application process? What about Ohioans who are disabled, homeless or otherwise don’t have adequate access to the postal system?

Yes, there are exceptions. Such people will be allowed to apply for and cast ballots in person at their board of elections office on April 28 up until 7:30 p.m. Contact your county’s office ahead of time if you have questions to get the proper information on how to cast a ballot. 

I’m an eligible voter living overseas. What is my deadline?

The law states your vote will be counted if received by your board of election office by mail any time through May 8, so long as it was mailed out no later than 12:01 a.m. on April 28. 

I’m in the military. What is my deadline?

Same as above: your absentee ballot must be received by your board of election office by mail any time through May 8, so long as it was mailed out no later than 12:01 a.m. on April 28. 

Why can’t the government just send me my blank ballot directly? Why do I have to go through the absentee request process?

Long story short: state law doesn’t allow that for primary elections.

I thought the primary election was going to be held on June 2?

That was the initial directive from Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, but he actually does not have the authority to set an election date. Only the state legislature can do that, and they decided to go with this absentee ballot process instead. 

But my county’s board of elections is still advertising the June 2 date.

With all due respect to your county’s election officials: they simply haven’t updated their site since the Ohio General Assembly voted on Wednesday to set a new date. It should get updated soon. If you have questions, call them. 

When will we know the election results?

We may receive an unofficial tally late on April 28, but there will be additional votes counted that come in from those living abroad or are serving in the military. An official count will come a few weeks later, as is normally the case in traditional elections. 

Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.