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Ten things about early voting in Ohio

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: October 14, 2016 11:25 AM

COLUMBUS — Are you ready to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton or Republican nominee Donald Trump?

Or maybe your inclinations lean more Green or Libertarian or toward some other political persuasion.

What about the Ohio Supreme Court? Or the Ohio Legislature? Or that local levy you’re still wondering about?

It’s decision time in Ohio, with several weeks of early, in-person voting through Nov. 8. Mailable absentee ballots are on the way to those who requested them, and in-person absentee ballots are being cast around the state starting today.

To that end, here are 10 things you should know about early voting and what you need to do in coming days and weeks to solidify your picks for president and other elected offices.

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1. The Polls Are Open: Ohio’s early voting period stretches for 28 days, through Election Day.

Each of Ohio’s 88 counties has a central early voting site, where absentee ballots can be cast in person. Early voting hours are little bit complicated, as follows:

• Through the end of this week and from Monday through Friday of next week — that is, the first two weeks of the early voting period — the polls will be open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

• During the week of Oct. 23, the polls will be open later on weekdays (8 a.m.-6 p.m.), plus from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30.

• There are even longer hours during the fourth and final week of early voting, from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. from Oct 31-Nov. 4, plus 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, and 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6.

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• The final early voting hours will run from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 7, the day before Election Day.

2. Confused Yet? Ohio has different hours for non-presidential-year elections and primaries, so if you’re confused, you’re not alone.

Check out MyOhioVote.com or call your local elections board if you need further explanation.

3. What to Take: If you’re voting early and in person, you’ll have to confirm your name and address and provide either the last four digits of your Social Security number or your driver’s license number.

That’s different from the Election Day requirements, when you’ll need a driver’s license or other military or government-issued ID, a current utility bill, paycheck or some other government document that shows your name and current address.

4. Voting By Mail: You don’t need to worry about polling place hours if you plan to cast your absentee ballot by mail.

If you requested one, using either the application sent to you by the secretary of state’s office or one you printed on your own, you should receive your paper ballot soon.

It has to be in the mail by Nov. 7, the day before Election Day. It might be a good idea to ensure it’s postmarked if you wait until closer to Nov. 8 to drop it in the mailbox.

If you forget, you can always submit your absentee ballot in person at your local board of elections office on Election Day by 7:30 p.m.

5. Better Use It: But if you ask for an absentee ballot, you probably should use it.

If you request one and then try to vote in person, elections officials likely will make you cast a provisional ballot to ensure you’re not voting twice.

6. Checking Your Status: The secretary of state’s office has added a feature to its website (MyOhioVote.com) that lets you check whether your mailed absentee ballot has been received by elections officials.

7. The Big One: Though much of the focus in this year’s presidential race has been on Clinton and Trump, there are actually five presidential tickets on Ohio’s ballot.

The list includes Green Party candidate Jill Stein and running mate Ajamu Baraka, Libertarian Gary Johnson and running mate William Weld and non-party candidate Richard Duncan and running mate Ricky Johnson.

Also, Gary Johnson will appear on the ballot as an independent candidate.

8. There’s More: There’s a whole bunch of registered write-in candidates for president, too — 18 total. You won’t find their names on the ballot, though each polling place must have a list available for voters to review.

If you’re thinking about writing in someone else (for example, Gov. John Kasich) but they haven’t registered in advance, those votes won’t be counted.

“If you want your vote to count, then you should vote for someone that’s actually running,” said Josh Eck, spokesman for the secretary of state’s office.

9. Other Races: One of Ohio’s U.S. Senate seats will be decided.

Incumbent Republican Rob Portman is being challenged by Democrat and former Gov. Ted Strickland, plus three other candidates: the Green Party’s Joseph DeMare and non-party contenders Tom Connors and Scott Rupert.

There are three Ohio Supreme Court seats on the ballot this year. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is unopposed. Pat Fischer faces John P. O’Donnell. And Pat DeWine faces Cynthia Rice.

Though party labels were included on the primary ballot, Ohio Supreme Court races are non-partisan affairs come November, so you won’t find Republican or Democrat included with the candidates’ names.

Also to be decided: All 99 members of the Ohio House, about half of the 33 Ohio Senate seats and 1,800-some local issues, among other races.

10. Turnout: It’s a presidential election, so turnout should be higher than during other even- or odd-year elections.

As of Friday, more than 1 million absentee ballot applications had been submitted to elections officials. That compares to more than 1.1 million during the same timeframe during the last presidential election.

“… Early voting numbers don’t always translate into higher voter turnout,” Eck said. “Early voting numbers really tell us that people are enthusiastic about voting early.”

He added, “… It’s a presidential election year with no incumbents on either side of the aisle. Those are traditionally high voter turnout years. The boards are preparing for a large number of people to turn out.”
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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