By: Mark E. Williams, Candidate for Miami County Commissioner
On Monday evening, Mar 16th, Governor DeWine announced he would push to have the primary election moved from March 17th to June 2nd. The Ohio General Assembly has the legal authority to set the date of Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary election and had done so in July of 2019. The question now is how do you vote if you haven’t already?
Most would agree that the safety and health of Ohioans is of utmost importance. As new information regarding the hazards of COVID 19 emerged during March of 2020, Governor DeWine decided the election could not go on and the date should be changed. The process should have involved calling an emergency special session of the legislature so they could make the change to the date.
Instead, Governed DeWine, chose to have a lawsuit filed against his own administration and directed his cabinet not to fight it expecting a judge to uphold the recommendation and set a new date of June 2nd for in-person voting. Prior to the judge making a ruling, guidance was distributed to some boards of Elections to cancel Election Day based on the expected outcome. The Franklin County judge however rejected the lawsuit based on the legislature being the only ones with the authority to cancel or change the date, meaning the primary should still go on.
At this point there was immense confusion and many county board of elections probably would have faced shortages in poll workers meaning they would not have been able to open polls due to the directives that had already been disbursed. Governor DeWine then took the extraordinary step on Mar 16th at 10:11 p.m. of having his health director order the polls closed despite the judge’s ruling. In response the Secretary of State sent out a directive that the election would be moved to June 2, 2020.
The decision to protect the health of our poll workers was an important one. While I agree that we should have considered delaying the election, I have always said that we must keep the process open and honest, and that we should follow the established procedures for dealing with these issues regardless of opinion. I am appalled at what appears to be a blatant disregard for the correct process for changing an election date. No one person in our state government should hold the power of canceling an election.
On March 17th, 2020, a lawsuit was filed by the Ohio Democratic Party challenging the authority of the Secretary of State to set a new election date. The state legislature is planning to meet next week to officially determine the new date. Even if the health director has the authority to close the polls, the suit and the legislature are contending that setting a new date and extending early voting does not fall within that same authority.
While it could be argued that election day is over, only 4,382 people cast absentee ballots in Miami County before the Mar 16th deadline. In comparison, Miami county had 30,279 votes cast in the last presidential primary in 2016 and had 14,821 votes cast in the 2018 primary. I would expect a resolution to be reached quickly by the legislature regarding this issue. The Ohio House of Representatives was pushing to meet this week to work on the issue, but the Ohio Senate has said they will address it next Wednesday when they are scheduled to return.
The details of the current plan are below:
· The voter registration deadline will remain February 18, 2020 and no new registrations will be processed for the primary election.
· Absentee ballots will be accepted and the required postmark date is changed to June 1, 2020.
· In-person voting will take place on June 2, 2020.
· Absentee ballots postmarked by June 1, 2020 must be received by the board of elections no later than June 12, 2020.
Right now, voters can request an absentee ballot by submitting Form No. 11-A to the board of elections by mailing it to: 215 W Main St, Troy, OH 45373. Miami County voters can call the board of elections at (937) 440-3900 to have an absentee ballot request form sent to their address or they can visit the Miami County board of elections website (https://www.boe.ohio.gov/miami/) to print the form themselves.
Miami County is populated by resilient people. I am convinced we are all working hard to ensure the safety and health of ourselves and our neighbors. My family and I are praying for the first responders, medical community and citizens of the county as we navigate this historic time. I remain committed to doing all I can to protect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. May God bless you, and may God bless Miami County.