CINCINNATI (AP) — Ohio’s virus-extended 2020 primary is finally coming to end, nearly 10 weeks after voting began.
Officials postponed in-person voting scheduled March 17 for public safety amid the pandemic and wound up with a mostly vote-by-mail plan that will allow in-person voting Tuesday only for some people with special circumstances.
Voter participation in the first election of its kind in the state has been running at about half of 2016′s 44% turnout, when two hotly contested presidential primaries were on the ballot. Republican President Donald Trump is unopposed on this year’s ballot, while all of former Vice President Joe Biden’s major rivals have thrown their support to him in the Democratic race in the past month or so.
“I think these numbers are understandable,” Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose said of turnout under unusual circumstances and without presidential competition in the primaries.
However, the state has some contested congressional primaries as well as races for legislative seats, judges and a range of local candidates and issues, so elections and party officials are urging people to not pass up voting.
Voters have the option to drop off their ballots at their county board of elections by Tuesday evening or to get them postmarked April 27 for it to be counted.
LaRose said he expects to have decisive results to report Tuesday night, although votes will continue to be counted as ballots mailed in the last days continue to arrive.
Early voting started Feb. 19, so Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders could possibly pick up delegates despite suspending his campaign in March.
Biden, if nominated, will try to win back Ohio from Trump, who carried the state in 2016 by a surprisingly high 8% margin over Hillary Clinton. Biden was on the ticket headed by Barack Obama that twice carried Ohio.
Without traditional rallies and door-to-door campaigning because of protective rules during the pandemic, candidates have largely focused on phones and social media to court voters.
Kate Schroder, who is seeking the nomination to challenge 12-term Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in Ohio’s 1st Congressional District, in the Cincinnati area, called it an “unexpected challenge” but nothing compared to the need for community safety. Nikki Foster is also vying for that nomination.
In another closely watched congressional primary, Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty of Columbus is getting a challenge from the left by Morgan Harper.