Posted: 6:23 p.m. Monday, Oct. 1, 2012

Early voting starts today


Early voting starts today photo
Steven Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said roughly 26,000 absentee ballots will be mailed out this morning (Tuesday) to Montgomery County voters. Staff photo by Lisa Powell
Early voting starts today photo
Absentee ballots across Ohio have been mailed out to voters. These ballots must be postmarked no later than the day before the election and received by the board of elections no later than 10 days after the election to be counted in the election results.

By Jeremy P. Kelley

After a year of legislative and court battles – some of them still ongoing – early voting for the November election began at 8 a.m. today at county Board of Elections offices across Ohio.

Because of a directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, early voting hours will be the same in all 88 counties for the Nov. 6 election. With three exceptions, voting hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday for the next three weeks, then 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. each weekday for the final two weeks before the election, through Nov. 2. Anyone in line at closing time will be allowed to vote.

Voting access on the Friday-Monday before Election Day is still uncertain pending an appeals court ruling.

“In-person early voting, in many ways, is easier than voting on Election Day, because if (voters) know the last four digits of their Social Security Number, they don’t need to bring anything with them,” said Jocelyn Bucaro, deputy director of the Butler County Board of Elections. “We match their SSN, their date of birth, their name and address and their signature, and if any of those do not match what they filled out on their application, then they would have to present a form of ID.”

While the presidential race has drawn most of the attention, local voters will decide on a huge number of other offices and issues whenever they go to the polls this fall.

Ohioans will choose a U.S. senator and members of Congress, state legislators, state Supreme Court justices and county officials such as commissioners, sheriffs and judges. They’ll also vote on a statewide issue concerning how political districts are drawn, and will consider numerous local tax levies and charter issues.

“This is a long ballot, and we’d really encourage people to research the issues,” said Llyn McCoy, deputy director of the Greene County Board of Elections.

But election officials also hope Ohioans take advantage of early voting sometime in the next five weeks, to reduce some Election Day strain. Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, said his county hopes to exceed the 78,000 people who voted early in 2008.

“We are encouraging voters to vote absentee – by mail and in person – because of the consolidation of precincts,” Harsman said, referring to the 2009 move that cut Montgomery County polling locations in half. “At three peak times on Election Day – before work, lunchtime and after work – potentially longer lines and an increased wait time may occur.”

Local election officials emphasize that in-person early voting is a form of absentee voting, so anyone voting in person before Election Day must fill out an absentee ballot application when they arrive at their Board of Elections. Voters must provide their driver’s license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number.

Some counties, including Miami, Greene and Butler, will have in-person early voters use voting machines unless they specifically request a paper ballot. Others, including Montgomery, Warren and Champaign, will use only paper ballots for early voting.

Ohioans who already requested absentee ballots by mail will start receiving them this week. Montgomery County will send out 26,000 ballots today and is processing about 10,000 more applications for its next wave. Husted said almost 1 million Ohioans – close to 15 percent of the state’s registered voters – have already requested absentee ballots by mail, more than a month before the election. In 2008, about 30 percent of Ohio voters cast early ballots.

Kathy Meyer, director of the Champaign County Board of Elections, said board of elections records would flag a person who shows up to vote in person after requesting a mail ballot. She said that person could walk away and use their mail ballot, or they could vote by provisional ballot in person — to be counted only if they never cast a ballot by mail.

Two of the exceptions to early voting hours are next week. All Boards of Election are closed Monday Oct. 8 for Columbus Day.

The other exception is Tuesday, Oct. 9, which is the last day Ohioans can register to vote for this election. All county boards of election will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. that day. From today through Oct. 9, Ohioans can register to vote and then vote all in one trip to their board of elections.

Where you can vote in-person early in your county

Montgomery: 451 W. Third St., Dayton. (937) 225-5656

Greene: 551 Ledbetter Road, Xenia. (937) 562-6170

Miami: 215 W. Main St., Troy. (937) 440-3900

Preble: 101 E. Main St., Eaton. (937) 456-8117

Darke: 300 Garst Ave., Greenville. (937) 548-1835

Shelby: 230 E. Court St., Sidney. (937) 498-7207

Clark: 3130 E. Main St., Springfield. (937) 521-2120

Champaign: 1512 South U.S. 68, Urbana. (937) 484-1575

Warren: 406 Justice Drive, Lebanon. (513) 695-1358

Butler: 1802 Princeton Road, Hamilton. (513) 887-3700