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Leader Sykes outlines vote by mail proposal as state continues to battle COVD-19 outbreak

Says vote-by-mail best way to promote health, conduct election during pandemic
March 20, 2020
Democratic Newsroom

House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today detailed her caucus’ priorities as state lawmakers prepare to return to the Statehouse next week to determine the timeline and procedures by which voters will be able to cast their ballots in the Ohio primary, which was scheduled for March 17, but postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

“We cannot predict the spread of the virus will be better in April, May or June, so the only way to hold this election with minimum risk for voters and poll workers alike is to conduct vote-by-mail only, a proven, secure system that’s already up and running in other states. We cannot risk further chaos and jeopardize the health of everyday Ohioans by scheduling another in-person primary during this deadly pandemic.

“Moving forward, we must use this as an opportunity to correct the failures of our out-of-date election system and work together on nonpartisan solutions that make our elections adaptable in cases of emergency, and more accessible and secure for all Ohio voters.”

House Democrats proposed the following:

  • No in-person voting to ensure health and safety of poll workers and voters;
  • Prepaid postage for absentee ballots;
  • Make absentee ballot applications electronically accessible;
  • More drop box locations;
  • April 28 deadline for mailing in ballots with a reasonable grace period for return;
  • Require Boards of Elections to develop or adhere to safe handling procedures for return mail;
  • Confined voter voting shall be extended and used expansively and include jailed voters;
  • Require non-partisan voter education programs and media plans;
  • Reimburse Boards for voter education materials, alternative secure drop off sites and other expenses;
  • Boards of Elections must accept all absentee applications applied for with postmarks after Saturday, March 14 at noon.