Inside Ohio’s 2020 Primary Election

Aaron McDade Guest Reporter

With the voter registration deadline for the Ohio primary election less than one month away on Feb. 18, the primary election is on the horizon. In total, Ohio voters will have 12 candidates to choose from for the Democratic nomination for the presidential election in November. 

They are:

            Michael Bennet: Senator from Colorado, campaigning on increased education spending and expanding economic opportunity for all.

            Joe Biden: Former Senator from Delaware, vice president from 2009-17. Campaigning on improving the Affordable Care Act, increasing the federal minimum wage.

            Michael Bloomberg: Former mayor of New York City, billionaire financing his own campaign, started Beyond Carbon, a clean energy initiative, in 2019.

            Pete Buttigieg: Former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Campaigning on policies he promoted as mayor like investing in technology and education.

            John Delaney: Former U. S. House of Representatives member from Maryland, was the first Democrat to officially declare their candidacy in July 2017. Campaigning on the promoting of bipartisan efforts.

            Tulsi Gabbard: U.S. House of Representatives member from Hawaii, served in the Iraq War. Campaigning on non-interventionist foreign policy.

            Amy Klobuchar: U.S.Senator from Minnesota. Campaigning on automatic voter registration, reducing the impact lobbyist money has on politics and climate regulations.

            Deval Patrick: Former governor of Massachusetts. Campaigning on creating a public option for health care, partial student debt relief and making the tax system simpler.

            Bernie Sanders: Senator from Vermont, first elected to public office as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in 1981. Campaigning on the creation of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, a $15 minimum wage, increasing taxes on wealthy Americans and free college education.

            Tom Steyer: Investor and activist from New York.  Campaigning on a broad progressive platform, emphasizing the rebuilding of American democracy he said will need to be done after Donald Trump leaves office.

            Elizabeth Warren: U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Campaigning on a wealth tax on the richest 75,000 families in America, and using those taxes to fund childcare, elimination of student loan debt, Medicare for All and a Green New Deal.

            Andrew Yang: First time running for political office, founded and worked at nonprofits and startups. Campaigning on the creation of a universal basic income for all adult American citizens. Due to paperwork issues, Yang will not be listed on the ballot, but voters can enter his name on the ballot as a write-in candidate.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s tracking of each candidate’s average polling in Ohio, Biden, Sanders and Warren are the only three candidates who poll above 10 percent support—29, 20 and 14 percent, respectively—among voters.

The Ohio primary will be on March 17, two weeks after “Super Tuesday,” the date on which the most states hold their primary elections.  The voter registration deadline in Ohio is February 18, and early voting begins the next day.

The primary is held on one day, but the preparation begins long before. Terrie Nielsen, the deputy director of Portage County’s Board of Elections, said they began preparations for this election in July 2019. That is when petition requirements were sent to candidates, so they knew what had to be submitted to the secretary of state’s office by Dec. 18, 2019, to ensure their place on the ballot.

After the county board receives the candidates and issues that will be on the ballot and the layout information, they begin designing the ballot for their individual county, including recording audio for disabled voters.

“It’s not a two-week process, it’s a forever process, always looking to improve and looking at new options,” Nielsen said.

Candidates who drop out of the election after filing their petitions have to file separate paperwork with the secretary of state’s office to ensure they will not be on the ballot or accepted as a write-in candidate. Nielsen said votes for write-in candidates that were not approved are thrown out, but write-in votes for registered candidates like Andrew Yang are counted like normal votes.

Nielsen emphasized preparation on the part of the voter. They will need to know where their polling place is, their opinions on the candidates and issues and what kind of ballot they need. The available ballots for the March 17 Ohio primary are Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, and issue-only ballots. She also said voters should be sure they are registered to vote at their current address and with their current legal names. Those updates need to be made by February 18.

Nielsen said Portage County isn’t very concerned about voter fraud because of the measures that are in place to prevent it. She encouraged voters to visit the Board of Elections website to make sure they are getting accurate information.

Voters need to know that their votes count, Nielsen said, as Portage County held a recount for a race last November because it was initially decided by one vote. She said voting is one of the best ways to make sure your voice is heard, along with running for office.

Polling locations across Ohio will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17.