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Colleen Craig · March 30, 2020

Ohio extends vote by mail primary until April 28 due to coronavirus. Here is what you need to know

The new deadline to cast your ballot is April 28

We certainly live in uncertain times.

At last, we have a clear answer about how to vote in the Ohio Primary! Initially, that was supposed to happen on March 17 but in-person voting was canceled at the last minute due to justified concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

So what happened?

State lawmakers extended the opportunity to vote by mail in the Ohio Primary until April 28th*

*Ballots must be postmarked by April 27th

If you voted before March 17, great! You’re all set and don’t need to take any action. Your ballot will be counted

There will be no in-person voting for the primary, with the exception of a small group of voters. If you have a disability or are experiencing homelessness, you will be permitted to vote in-person on April 28 at the county Board of Elections where you are registered between 6:30 am – 7:30 pm.

If you haven’t voted in the primary yet, request your ballot immediately.

If you haven’t voted in the primary yet, the best thing you can do is request your ballot immediately (even though boards of elections will technically accept ballot requests until April 25th). By submitting your request early, you can ensure you will have plenty of time ahead of the April 28 deadline to fulfill the required steps, which we will outline below.

Voters will not be automatically provided with a ballot request form.

However, if you are a registered voter in Ohio, you will receive a postcard from the Secretary of State’s office explaining:

  • 1. How to request an absentee ballot
  • 2. The procedure for returning your completed ballot to your county Board of Elections
  • 3. The deadlines for absentee ballot requests and the return of your completed ballot

Some voting rights groups expressed concern that the April 28 deadline selected by the legislature could create logistical challenges due to the requirement that all voters manually request their ballot by mail or phone. Most states with all-mail elections in place send a ballot to all eligible voters.

If only it could be that easy in Ohio, huh?

Again, this is why we encourage you to request your absentee ballot as soon as possible.

STEP ONE – Obtain a ballot request form

There are a few ways you can obtain an absentee ballot request form.

  1. Download and print a request form from the Secretary of State’s website 
  2. Call your county’s Board of Elections to request one over the phone.
  3. Write out the required information on a piece of paper and mail it to or drop it off at the Board of Elections.
Image courtesy of Mia Lewis with Common Cause Ohio on Twitter

STEP TWO – Fill out your ballot request form

The Secretary of State’s website lets you fill it out before you download and print. 

Make sure you sign the form before putting it in an envelope. 

Be careful not to list today’s date where you’re asked to list your birth date (that’s a common mistake).

If you fill the form out by hand, here’s a diagram that may be helpful, courtesy of Ohio Progressive Action Leaders:

Image courtesy of OPAL – Ohio Progressive Action Leaders

STEP THREE – Mail your request form to your county’s Board of Elections

Once you have your request form in-hand and filled out, put a stamp on it, address it to your county’s Board of Elections, and drop it in the mail; or drop it off in-person. All early vote centers should have drop boxes available to do drive-bys.

STEP FOUR – Fill out your ballot when it arrives

Go to the Secretary of State’s website to find your sample ballot for the primary.

STEP FIVE – Return you completed ballot

IMPORTANT: Absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than 4/27, or they can be dropped off at vote centers by 4/28.

Frequently Asked Questions

See more FAQs on the Sec. of State’s website.

What election date should I put on my ballot request form? The date of the election technically never changed from March 17, but Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office has stated they will accept March 17, April 28, or June 2 as valid election dates.

Can I request a ballot online? No, although this seems like a commonsense reform worth advocating for, long-term.

What if I don’t have a printer? Not everybody has ready access to a printer, especially right now at a time when many public libraries and office places are closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. If you don’t have a printer, call your local county’s board of elections and ask them to mail you an absentee ballot request form. You will still need to complete the form and mail it back before you receive your official ballot.

Can I put multiple applications in one envelope? Yes, but only so long as all the forms are supposed to be delivered to the same county board of elections. 

Do I need to pay for postage? You need postage for when you send in your absentee ballot request form. The postage on your ballot should be prepaid.

Does this mean I can vote in the primary if I register to vote right now? Unfortunately, no. In order to be eligible to cast your primary ballot by mail, you have to have already been registered to vote by February 18, 2020. 

The voter registration deadline for the November 3 General Election is October 5, 2020. You can register to vote online in Ohio at the Secretary of State’s website.

See what’s on the 2020 ballot in Ohio

Tagged in these Policy Areas: 2020 Election