LIMA — Out of all the cancellations and closings caused by COVID-19, postponing Ohio’s Election Day really took the cake.
And now Beth Seibert has to buy another one. Literally.
The candidate for Allen County commissioner had planned for an Tuesday night election party complete with cake, but when Gov. Mike DeWine’s directives to close the polls came down the line, Seibert found herself with a cake and no party.
Ohio voters, however, were just mostly confused.
“The last 24 hours have been hell,” Allen County Board of Elections Director Kathy Meyer said.
Meyer said local residents had been calling the county board throughout the day Monday for the most up-to-date information on the status of polling locations, but the board of elections had received conflicting messages from the state as the day moved through its paces. By the time Meyer had prepped for bed, the final call came down the line.
Polls were to be closed.
“We had to scramble and make sure everyone was notified,” Meyer said.
On Tuesday, Meyer said the board was busy as residents still found their way to the board of elections to request and fill out absentee ballots. As of Tuesday morning, 2,210 had been turned in, and 1,186 had been mailed out.
Confusion, however, still lingers for many voters.
Seibert, who had been going door-to-door in Lafayette yesterday, said she ran across one gentleman who thought that he had lost his chance to vote completely.
“He was seriously convinced before I got there that he had lost the opportunity to vote,” Seibert said.
DeWine, however, has said that the decision to close the polls was meant to increase the opportunity, not negate it. During the governor’s now daily press update on COVID-19, DeWine repeatedly defended the action by explaining that he didn’t want the final vote to be influenced by coronavirus concerns.
Keeping polls open would ask voters to choose between risking their health and exercising their constitutional, and so, the state decided to set a new election date, he said. If the courts agree, voters will now have the chance on June 2 to cast a ballot in person and until May 26 to request an absentee ballot.
“We need to allow those citizens that become ill to be able to have opportunity at some point to vote. The longer we can spread that time out, the better that is,” DeWine said.
From a candidate’s point of view, however, the postponement creates some problems. Normally, a candidate aims to increase advertising efforts in the weeks prior to an election in order to deplete their campaign funds and get the most bang out of their buck, but with a change in the schedule, they have to head back to the drawing boards.
“We’re trying to decide: Do we need to reinvest in those (advertising) spaces or do they need to end? We’ll probably let most of those elapse, but our yard signs are staying up,” Seibert said.
Other county candidates are in similar boats. Tim Sielschott, Alan Tyrrell, Judy Augsburger and Greg Stolly have all put their names and faces on ads and yard signs throughout the county, and with an extended voting period, candidates essentially have a second chance to build upon what they’ve already done or they could lose the gains they’ve already made.
The change has also complicated how the county will move forward with replacing Allen County commissioner Jay Begg. By law, Begg will vacate the position by midnight Tuesday, and it will be up to the Allen County Republican Party to decide how to fill the seat.
Prior to Monday, the goal was put the winner of the primary in the position as an interim commissioner, but Keith Cheney, the county party’s chairman, said limitations on meeting size have hampered the selection committee’s ability to meet.
For now, Cheney said the committee, like so many others in the past week, sits in a holding pattern.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.