Like over a million Ohioans, I requested an absentee ballot for the November election. And like thousands of Ohioans, I don't know when — or if — I'll get that ballot.
Months ago, when it became clear that there would likely be a huge surge in the levels of mail-in voting in Ohio, my county was one of several in Ohio and Pennsylvania that contracted an outside company to keep up with demand. The printing company Midwest Direct, which has its headquarters in Cleveland, was hired to print and distribute absentee ballots.
They have not followed through.
It wasn't until 10 days after Ohio absentee ballots were supposed to begin to be sent out that anyone in my county received theirs. Since then, ballots have started to trickle in. But people are frustrated and confused about where theirs are and when they should be expecting them.
This delay is putting the ability of citizens to vote safely at risk. It's an unacceptable failure on the part of the county and the company that promised it could handle the increased demand for absentee votes. And both parties are more than happy to point the blame at each other.
The leader of my county's board of elections has caused Midwest Direct's delay "unacceptable." Butler County, another one of the Ohio counties that contracted Midwest Direct, has said the company "overpromised and underdelivered." But Midwest Direct (whose owners are self-proclaimed Trump supporters and who flew a Trump flag over their headquarters until recently) has claimed that the was no way to prepare for how many absentee ballot requests they received and that they're doing their best to get the ballots out to voters as fast as possible.
More important than this administrative back and forth are the real people whose ability to vote in a presidential election has been put at stake. Older people, those with health conditions, college students, and anyone understandably wary to vote in-person in the middle of a global pandemic rely on mail-in ballots to exercise our First Amendment rights. If I don't get my absentee ballot in time to send it back, there's no other way I can plausibly vote. And if others can't get their ballots in time, they may not end up voting, be it because they can't, they don't know how to with an absentee ballot for them technically issued, or because they don't want to risk their health and safety by going to the polls.
This election has already been an exercise in confusion, misinformation, voter suppression, and sowing doubt in the democratic process. The very least the people of Ohio can expect is to be permitted to cast their votes. The failure of both counties and their contractors to provide that ability is unacceptable.