‘I’m just really disgusted with it all. Of course, I’ll feel guilty if I don’t vote…’
(Liberty Headlines) Democrats who are pressing for controversial “mail-in” only elections may want to rethink the strategy after Tuesday’s Ohio presidential primary cut turnout in half for Democrats.
Perhaps it was a sense of inevitability driving them. Joe Biden, the only remaining Democratic candidate, won.
But even as Democrats tried to make voting easier and more accessible, the first major test of statewide elections via mail saw mixed results at best.
There were reports of confusion, and overall turnout appeared to be off. The secretary of state’s office said that about 1.5 million votes had been cast as of midday Saturday, down sharply from the 3.2 million cast in Ohio’s 2016 presidential primary.
The primary, originally scheduled for March 17, was delayed just hours before polls were supposed to open.
Republicans in the state—including Gov. Mike DeWine—also seemed to stand behind the decision to forgo polling places after left-wing media scathingly attacked Wisconsin’s GOP for fighting a last-ditch effort by the Democratic governor there to delay the primary.
Citing a “health emergency,” DeWine recommended that in-person balloting not be held until June 2.
But amid legal challenges, officials moved balloting to this week while converting to a mail-in process since the state remains under a stay-at-home order.
“Within the context of the threat of the virus, it’s a decision that we will have made the best of,” Republican Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio elections chief who chairs the bipartisan International Foundation for Electoral Systems, said of mail-in balloting.
Most Ohioans casting absentee ballots had to run at least three pieces of mail—an application, a blank ballot and a completed one—through the U.S. Postal Service.
Only homeless and disabled people were initially encouraged to cast in-person ballots at county election board offices, though anyone not receiving ballots by mail in time to participate could also turn up in person.
Lynne Marshall, of Sylvania, near the Ohio–Michigan border, opened her mailbox Tuesday and was disappointed to see that her ballot had not arrived after waiting months and making countless calls to the state and local election offices.
She then agonized over whether to cast a vote in person at the election board and put her health at risk or stay home and skip an election for the first time that she can remember.
“What should I do?” she asked. “I’m just really disgusted with it all. Of course, I’ll feel guilty if I don’t vote.”
Jen Miller, the head of the League of Women Voters in Ohio, said it will be impossible to know how many people stayed home because they didn’t get a ballot in time.
“We’ve had people waiting weeks and weeks,” Miller said.
With his last competitor, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, leaving the race weeks ago, Biden has emerged as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, and the Ohio results were never in doubt.
But questions linger about his fitness and a snowballing rape scandal, which some former Sanders campaign staffers have said offers reason to continue casting votes for the socialist Sanders.
In the wake of the scandal, New York—one of the biggest states still up for grabs—decided recently to cancel its primary altogether, citing the virus as its excuse.
Democrats have pushed hard for an all-mail voting system in the November general election, but the proposal has been roundly dismissed as opening the door to massive voter fraud and a bureaucratic nightmare.
Five states currently conduct all elections entirely by mail: Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Utah, but none had to adopt such practices amid a pandemic.
Blackwell, the former Ohio election chief, said he didn’t see Tuesday’s results setting a precedent once the health panic has receded.
He said the state’s in-person voting—run by 88 bipartisan county election boards and offering a wide, 30-day early voting window—lends “a degree of almost guaranteed legitimacy” that’s missing from mail-in balloting.
“My opinion going forward is that no serious thought should be given to converting to mail-in balloting for the November election,” Blackwell said.
“You lick an envelope and mail in a ballot, there’s all kinds of evidence that would suggest that there would be ballots lost, and because you’ve taken out the bipartisan oversight at the basic community level, you lose a degree of almost guaranteed legitimacy.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press