MIAMI COUNTY — With the deadline to request an absentee ballot looming, Miami County Board of Elections officials shared their advice on how to cast their vote for this year’s unprecedented Ohio Primary.
The primary that was scheduled for March 17 is now being conducted by mail. There will be no in-person voting. The election was extended due to the coronavirus.
Applications for an absentee ballot must be received by the county’s board of elections before noon Saturday, April 25. Director Laura Bruns said that deadline is cutting it close for both the board office and the recipient. She urged voters to submit their own absentee ballot request rather than have the board office send one out due to the mail schedule, which could delay the process.
“My recommendation to voters is to just write down all that information on a blank piece of paper. We get those every day. As long as it has all the information on them, we’ll send a ballot out to them,” Bruns said.
Applications that fail to provide a signature is a “fatal error” and must be remedied by a new application. Signatures are compared with voter’s registration in the poll books for each application.
Emails of scanned applications are unable to be accepted due to security and identity protocols.
Bruns said the office is technically closed to the public. Voters who need to correct applications or have other in-person needs can meet with staff by appointment.
Bruns also said those who call in the office are encouraged to leave a message with their phone number so a staff member can return their call.
Bruns encourages voters to use the drop box in the Miami County Courthouse lobby on the first floor. It does not require going through the security process. A drop box is also located in the plaza area affixed to the Safety Building pillar. Ballots are secured in the boxes by double-lock and key.
Bruns said the most frequent error the public is making is not indicating which ballot they’d like to receive: Republican, Democrat or issue-only. Bruns gestured to a stack of applications 4 inches high on a staff member’s desk to show the number of applications that made an error that delays the process. Bruns said board of elections staff members are contacting voters by phone or email to correct the error, which has never been allowed prior to this election.
“We have been given permission to contact them by phone or email address and take that information over the phone. We are normally not allowed to do that, but because of the time constraints we do have permission to do that,” Bruns said. “All of those people will receive a phone call or an email or a letter in the mail depending on what they provided.”
Bruns said the office is caught up with the large volume of mail — half ballots and half applications. Bruns said the turn around for ballots is now the following day that it is received by the office.
“We did have a delay at the beginning because we didn’t have the permission to send the ballots out. We had a lot to send out once we were allowed and we were backlogged. Last week we caught completely up,” Bruns said.
Bruns said the board office was prepared with plenty of envelopes on hand to meet the large demand of mail. The office even shared their surplus with other board of elections that had ran short.
Bruns said the office will save money by not having to pay poll workers, but funds will be expended due to the increase need of staff of seven to eight employees in the office and postage. The state will reimburse the county and plans provide additional funds of approximately $46,065 total to help cover the additional costs for the county, $10,000 of which was received this week.
• Election results
Due to the absentee voting process, Deputy Director Ian Ridgeway said unofficial results will be available on April 28. The last day the office can accept absentee ballots is May 8 as long as they have been postmarked by April 27 or returned in the drop box by 7:30 p.m. April 28.
On May 12, the board of elections will have its official canvas of results. A meeting to review provisional ballots will be held on May 9.
On Tuesday, LaRose announced that 1,254,377 Ohioans have requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the Ohio primary election and 712,048 voters have already cast their ballot.
Prior to March 17, the board received 4,500 early votes before the polls closed. A total of 13,981 ballots have been cast or requested since Feb. 19, which is approximately 20 percent of registered voters in Miami County.
“All of the ballots cast in the early voting prior to March 17 will be counted,” Bruns said.
Bruns said for every one phone call from a disgruntled voter, 10 phone calls have been positive and supportive of their efforts.
“People understand the pressure we are under,” she said.