Low voter turnout and confusion highlight Ohio’s delayed primary election

Low voter turnout and confusion highlight Ohio’s delayed primary election
Marcia McCoy drops her ballot into a box outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Cleveland, Ohio. The first major test of an almost completely vote-by-mail election during a pandemic is unfolding Tuesday in Ohio, offering lessons to other states about how to conduct one of the most basic acts of democracy amid a health crisis. (Source: AP Photo/Tony Dejak/AP)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Low voter turnout and confusion highlighted Ohio’s delayed primary election, which was completed Tuesday night.

Ohio's primary election brings poor voter turnout, confusion and frustration

The Secretary of State's office said 1.7 million voters cast their ballots, about 22 percent of the state's 7.7 million registered voters.

“We rose to the occasion, we came together, even in the midst of this global pandemic to make sure we could run a free and fair election,” said Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

“This pandemic has changed a lot in our lives but there are things that will never change. In our democracy, every voice matters and every vote will be counted,” LaRose added.

While the majority of the election was conducted via mail-in ballots, voters were allowed to drop off their ballots at county Board of Elections offices.

Most of the problems seem to have stemmed from the two-part process voters were required to follow. Ballots were only issued to registered voters who first applied for them.

“This was just done in too short a notice,” said Shirley Fitzpatrick, of East Cleveland. “I know people who never got the notification, or they never got the ballot.”

There was concern that people who waited until the Saturday deadline to apply for a ballot, wouldn’t receive it in time to vote by Tuesday’s voting deadline.

If registered voters did apply, but did not receive their ballot, they were allowed to vote in-person at their county’s Board of Elections office.

“Anyone who came here yesterday, did have the opportunity to vote. We did not turn anyone away,” said Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Director Anthony Perlatti.

But on Election Day itself, advocacy groups said they were already hearing complaints throughout the state.

“Voters had called into their Board of Elections inquiring about the provisional voting process and the [people] who answered those phones at those various Boards of Elections said ‘we don’t have provisional voting on Tuesday, it’s only for disabled and homeless voters,’ ” said Mike Brickner, who leads the Ohio division of All Voting is Local.

“We had some calls of some frustrated voters who were either unaware of the process or just heard of the process,” said Lake County Board of Elections Director Ross McDonald.

“Certainly I think one big takeaway for all election officials in Ohio is we need to help educate voters on the absentee voting process by mail,” McDonald told 19 News. “Certainly we had a lot of folks who were first time voters in terms of by mail, so it was a new experience for them.”

Like the pandemic that sparked the initial postponement of the Ohio primary, originally slated for March 17, there is still uncertainty over how the November election will be held.

That means there’s still uncertainty over how to get voters ready to make their voices heard.

“The more time we [have to] know what the rules are before November, the better," Perlatti said.

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