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Voting Rights Group Says Ohio's Election Participation May Be Half Of 2016

A voter fills out his ballot, taking advantage of early voting, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Steubenville, Ohio.
Gene J. Puskar
Associated Press

Voting rights group All Voting Is Local says 1.5 million Ohioans have requested absentee ballots so far this year – about half the number who voted in the last presidential primary four years ago.

“In 2016, we had a little over 3 million people who voted in the primary election," says spokesman Mike Brickner. "For the 2020 election thus far, we are looking at about only 1.5 million people who have either cast an early ballot or requested an absentee ballot since we extended the time.

All Voting Is Local looked at information from the Ohio Secretary of State for the March 17 primary, which lawmakers extended to April 28 after polling places were closed.

The group then compared numbers from four years ago, when there was in person voting and a contentious Republican primary that featured then-Gov. John Kasich.

Now, the Democratic primary has narrowed to just one candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden, and voting is almost entirely being done through the mail.

Brickner notes some Ohioans who requested ballots might not return them before the deadline, so the final numbers could be even lower. He argues the vote totals are low because Ohio's mail-in balloting process is confusing for many voters.

Voters have until April 25 to request absentee ballot forms, but the process is not a quick one. Ballots must be postmarked by April 27, or dropped off at boards of elections by April 28, to be counted.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.