Early voting begins in Ohio ahead of the state's St. Patrick's Day presidential primary

Posted at 5:32 PM, Feb 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-19 17:32:13-05

CLEVELAND — They are the first votes cast in the Ohio 2020 primary, and come election night March 17, they will be the first votes counted. Across the state, voters came out to vote early in person on the first day of early voting ahead of the March primary.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections saw a good flow of voters early on — people like Madison Newingham, an Elizabeth Warren supporter who isn't worried about the dynamics of the presidential race changing in the next 27 days.

"No, my opinion's been pretty set in stone since she announced. I wanted her to run in '16," she said. "For this election my opinion's been pretty lock solid; that doesn't mean I'll vote early every election though."

In Cuyahoga County voters were greeted to an overhaul of the building's first floor to better accommodate the crowds that in presidential years can have lines stretching outside and around the building. The BOE considered moving the early voting location away from 30th and Euclid but Director Anthony Perlatti said "it's difficult to lease a space just for a two month period and so working with the county we were able to re-vamp this space here and make it so we can vote on one floor and accommodate the large crowds that we anticipate."

On Wednesday, the BOE also mailed out over 20,000 absentee ballots to Cuyahoga County voters who requested them. In 2016, one out of four voters in the primary voted early, in 2012 the number was higher at nearly 40%. The wild card in 2020 is the actual date of the primary, St. Patrick's Day.

"Alot of individuals don't realize that the primary is on March 17," Perlatti said. "And so one of our information campaigns that we're pushing out for this election is come down here and vote early, vote by mail."

A repeat question we've received here at News 5 over the last several weeks is how does a non-partisan or even a Republican go about voting in the Democratic primary? The answer Perlatti said is not complex, you simply ask for a Democratic ballot.

"So in the state of Ohio we have partially open primaries which means when a person comes in to vote they select the ballot style they want," Perlatti said. "It doesn't matter what your current party affiliation is or no party affiliation you can choose the ballot type you want and that's what you'll cast."

He said those choosing to vote as Democrats should know one thing though. "You'll now have that party affiliation for the next two years."