As local election officials prepare for next month’s presidential primary, they want to make sure voters are ready as well.
Brandon Clay and Tina LaRoche, director and deputy director of the Union County Board of Elections, each said they get frequent questions about all elections, but especially primary elections.
This year’s primary election will be held Tuesday, March 17.
Primaries are state-level and local-level elections that take place prior to a general election. A primary election is the opportunity for members of each political party to select the candidate they believe should be their party’s candidate to run against the other party in the general election. Ohio is an open primary state, meaning a voter does not have to register with a political party beforehand in order to vote in that party’s primary.
In Ohio, voters select their preferred party primary ballots at their polling places on Election Day.
“We are an open primary state so you can choose which party you want to affiliate with, but then you are with that party until the next primary election,” LaRoche said.
Clay said voters do not need to declare ahead of election day and they do not need to justify or verify their party selection.
“You just tell the poll worker which party ballot you want,” Clay said.
The key is, once you choose a party, you can only vote in that party’s primary. In the past, voters have wanted to vote in one party’s primary for some positions and the other party primary for others.
“We have people wanting to vote in both primaries and we have to tell them, ‘That’s not the way it works in Ohio,’” LaRoche said.
Officials recognize that could be an issue again this year as the democratic presidential primary is getting a lot of attention nationally, but locally, only the republican party has contested races.
In addition to republican or democrat, voters can choose a libertarian or questions and issues ballot. Countywide, there are more than 250 possible ballots, depending on where a voter lives and which ballot they want.
LaRoche said there are no county-wide questions or issues and only 15 of the county precincts have issues, “so if you choose that ballot, there may potentially be nothing to vote on.”
Ohio does require voters to present non-photo identification (ID) when they vote. Accepted forms of ID include a valid Ohio driver’s license, military ID, current utility bill, current bank statement, government check or paycheck with the voter’s name and address or a current other government document with the voter’s name and address.
Voters who do not have ID while voting may cast provisional ballots. A provisional ballot is one that requires additional steps or information before it can be counted.
This year’s primary will be held March 17, the third Tuesday of the month. Beginning in 2016, Ohio moved the primary on presidential years only, to the second Tuesday of the March. However, under republican rules, states voting before March 15 cannot assign delegates on a winner-takes-all basis.
Ohio holds a March primary only on presidential election years. Other years, the primary is held in May.
“This can be confusing for voters,” Clay said.
He explained that Ohioans who spend the winter elsewhere sometimes forget about the earlier presidential primary. He said that can cause them to miss the election.
“They need to make sure, if they want an absentee ballot, that they request one,” Clay said.
The board can mail absentee ballot applications or voters can download the application from the board website.
Officials said they have not moved any poling locations for this election. Several locations were changed or combined last year in preparation for this election so there would be no confusion about where residents should cast their vote.
Officials said they do not know how many voters to anticipate, but they are deploying “100% of our machines so that we are prepared for the turnout and prepared for the Presidential election in November.”
Board officials also reminded residents that to vote in the primary, or any election, they must be registered. Voters can check their registration also at the board website. Tuesday is the deadline to register to vote in the March primary. Clay said the board office would stay open until 9 p.m. that day to give as many potential voters a last-minute opportunity to register.
Early voting begins Wednesday, at the board office. Beginning that day, through March 6, the office will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. The office will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, March 7. The week of March 9-13, the office will open at 8 a.m. and stay open until 7 p.m. The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 14 and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, March 15. On Monday, March 16, the office will open at 8 a.m. and close at 2 p.m.
Independent candidates filing for either position must file by March 16, 2020.
The general election will be held Nov. 2, 2020.
Clay said the board of elections is always looking for additional poll workers. He said anyone interested in helping or wanting more information is invited to contact the office — 835 E. Fifth St., Suite A, Marysville — or call the office at (937) 642-2836.
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