Coronavirus-spurred changes to Ohio’s primary raise concerns about November

April 27, 2020, Reuters

Annotation 2020-04-30 144721WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ohio will hold its primary election on Tuesday, a virtually all-mail contest that could serve as a test case for voting in the coronavirus era.

Citing public health concerns, the state’s legislature moved back the date of the primary, originally slated for March 17, to April 28 and sharply curtailed in-person voting.

It’s a glimpse of what the presidential contest might look like in November if COVID-19 remains a threat. But some voters, election officials and voting-rights watchdogs are already alarmed: Ohio’s system has been overwhelmed by the crush of requests for absentee ballots, a situation that could disenfranchise potentially tens of thousands of voters.

“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Brent Lawler, a manager at the board of elections in Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland and more registered voters than any other Ohio county.

More than 1.9 million Ohio voters requested to vote absentee in Tuesday’s primary, a 421% increase from absentee turnout in the 2016 primary, according to state election data.

The state’s election offices were required by law to mail ballots to any voters whose applications they received by noon on Saturday, April 25. At least 37,000 absentee ballots were mailed out on Saturday, county election data show.

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