COLUMBUS (WCMH) — In a normal election, if you show up at a polling location and want to vote, but your eligibility to vote is in question, you can ask for a provisional ballot and it must be given to you.
This is protected under state and federal law. You are guaranteed a ballot, but you are not guaranteed that your ballot will count.
Usually, the question of eligibility could stem from a person’s name not appearing on the official poll list for that particular precinct; or perhaps the person doesn’t have the required proof of identification; or their signature doesn’t match the one on record; or the name appearing on the official poll list as having already requested an absentee ballot.
For the extended March 17 Presidential Primary Election, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed Boards of Elections within the final week of the election to prepare for and allow voters who requested absentee ballots but didn’t receive them in the mail, to cast a provisional ballot.
For this special extension, the Ohio Legislature carved out two exceptions when it extended the primary to an all-mail vote: people with disabilities and the homeless were the only two groups who were allowed to vote a regular ballot in person April 28, the final day of the election.
Every other voter had to request an absentee ballot and either send it in by mail or drop it off in person at the board of elections.
Applying for an absentee ballot is something the majority of Ohioans have never done before, as traditionally about 85 percent of voters in the state cast a ballot in person on Election Day.
Requesting a ballot for the primary was especially necessary as there were specific ballots for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and people who wanted to only vote a ballot that dealt with local issues and did not want to automatically be labeled as belonging to a particular party.
Some people made this request right away, some of them got their applications, filled them out, sent them in and subsequently received their ballot. Others started the process right away and ran into delays with the postal service which extended their wait times.
Some people never received their ballots, perhaps due to waiting too long to start the multi-step process or because the postal service simply did not deliver the ballot in time.
For those who did request a ballot but never received it in time, they were instructed to cast a provisional ballot at their county board of elections headquarters Tuesday. The consensus seems to be these voters’ ballots will count, because of the directive given by LaRose.
But what about someone who never requested a ballot to begin with and just decided to show up and request a ballot in person?
In a normal election without special stipulations placed on it by the legislature, this person would be voting on a normal ballot as long as they met all of the eligibility requirements.
This, however, is not a normal election.
As of an hour before the polls close on this extended Primary Election, LaRose’s office has not been able to provide clarification about what will happen with the provisional ballots cast by people who never requested an absentee ballot.
The guidance apparently is in some approval limbo and has been for at least an hour and a half.
This story will be updated when the Secretary of State’s office provides an answer.