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Ohio should plan now for the Nov. 3 election

The faux pas that snowballed into chaos, confusion and last-minute changes for voters during this year’s all-mail primary election must be avoided well before the November general election.

If there is any inkling that the COVID-19 pandemic and social-distancing issues still might exist in November — and it appears there is — Ohio’s governor, secretary of state and especially legislators in Columbus must start acting now, months in advance, to make necessary changes to the November voting process.

We previously have argued in this space that it was the Ohio Legislature that erred by hastily drawing up plans for the election after Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton canceled the in-person election just hours before polls were scheduled to open in March due to fears of the health pandemic.

The resulting election was rushed and cumbersome, creating obstacles of time limitations and disorganization for local boards of elections. The all-mail primary still is wrapping up as local boards of elections await the arrival of outstanding ballots in the next few days that still must be counted before final results are certified.

The confusing back-and-forth between voters and boards of elections likely contributed to the horribly low voter turnout.

You have to wonder if it would have been preferable for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose to send applications for a ballot to every registered voter. You will probably recall that instead, LaRose sent postcards to every registered voter inviting them to either print an application for a ballot and mail it in, request an application online or send a written request to the board of elections. As of Monday — one day before all-mail “election day” — many voters still had not received their ballots. That prompted yet another last-minute decision to allow voters who had applied but still were waiting to go to their board of elections to cast a provisional ballot. We wonder how many voters didn’t know about this option implemented again hours before “election day” and missed their opportunity to vote.

Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, said she already is putting together a draft of House Bill 560 that, if passed, could create a universal vote-by-mail system for Ohio. Simplicity, she said, must be key to distributing the ballots and encouraging people to vote. Details of her bill still are being worked out, but we agree that simplicity is crucial.

We are pleased to see legislative discussions starting early, and we encourage them to continue at a rapid pace.

The upcoming November general election with the presidential race is certain to draw a large turnout. There will be no room for last-minute confusion like what existed in the primary.

In times of crisis, Ohio voters deserve to know their democracy remains sound. To avoid repeating the errors brought about by rushed, poor planning of the primary election process, we must not delay. It must be handled with better organization and professionalism

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