The 2020 election is just two months away and there are a number of ways Ohioans can make their voices heard.
There are generally three ways to vote in the state: absentee, early voting in-person and in-person on election day. However, things aren't exactly "business as usual" as the country continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
To be clear, Ohioans can still vote however they choose, however, things may look a little different and a delay in results is expected.
Here's what you should know as move closer to Election Day on Nov. 3.
Chapter one: Ohio Voter Registration
First things first: to make your vote count in the November election, you need to make sure you are registered.
In Ohio, the deadline to do so is Oct. 5. If you still need to get that done, the form can easily be completed online here.
To register online you will need to provide the following:
- Ohio driver’s license or Ohio identification card number
- Date of Birth
- Last four digits of your Social Security number
If you do not have any portion of the required information, follow this link to update your voting address using our paper form (PDF). Once you complete this form, you must sign and send it to your county board of elections.
If you are a Safe at Home participant, follow this link to contact the Safe at Home office.
Move out of Ohio? You're encouraged to cancel your Ohio registration by completing the voter registration cancellation form available here (PDF) and mailing it to your county board of elections for the county where you used to live.
For information on how to register to vote in another state, visit the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s website.
Chapter two: Ohio Absentee Voting
To vote absentee in Ohio, you first have to fill out a request form.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose will be sending those out to every registered Ohio voter this week, and two more rounds will be mailed out to Ohioans who register before the Oct. 5 registration deadline.
You can also get a form from you county board of elections or print out a PDF here.
Once you complete the form and sign it, you should mail it back to your county board of elections or put it in your county's designated drop box. You can track your request form online. The deadline for your request to be received is Oct. 31 at noon.
After your request is approved, you'll be sent an actual absentee ballot, those will start being available on Oct. 6.
Once you receive your ballot, you do the same process over again: fill it out, sign it, send it back.
If you are sending it by mail, it must be postmarked no later than Nov. 2. and recieved no later than Nov. 13.
If you are returning it to your BOE directy or in the drop box, it must be recieved no later than 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Chapter three: Ballot Drop Boxes
Although questions have popped up over the safety of the election drop boxes, LaRose has repeatedly said they are safe to use.
According to his directive, every day, at least one Republican and one Democratic member of the local board or staff retrieve, together, the boxes' contents. Those boxes also have to be monitored 24/7.
For the first time in a general election, every Ohio county has one, but Democrats have made clear they don’t think one is enough.
Ohio Dems have sued LaRose, seeking to force an expansion of ballot drop boxes ahead of the November election.
The lawsuit came two weeks after LaRose issued a directive that prohibited election boards from installing drop boxes anywhere but the board location, effectively limiting the number of bosses to one per county.
“The complaint we filed today makes clear that nothing in Ohio law prevents counties and the Secretary of State from expanding drop boxes within their respective counties," Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said.
Pepper accused LaRose's directive of hindering voters in a way that “is not consistent with Ohio statue."
“Secretary LaRose has been and continues to be supportive of legislation that permits additional options for voters to return their absentee ballots,” LaRose’s spokesperson Maggie Sheehan said. “As an executive office holder, he must follow the law as the legislature writes it.”
In a letter to LaRose, legislative Democrats argued that he already has the power needed to add drop boxes and to pay ballot postage.
The legislators noted that the Controlling Board already approved LaRose covering eligible election expenses from CARES Act money back in June.
Chapter four: Ohio Early In-Person Voting
If you just prefer to vote in-person but are still wary of crowds, early voting could be a good alternative.
Starting Oct. 6, all registered voters may vote in-person at their county's board of elections or early voting center.
Most Ohio counties provide early voting at their board of elections office. However, the following counties have separate early voting centers:
Chapter five: Voting on Election Day
Ohioans can still vote in-person on Election Day. However, things may look a little different.
For instance, Ohioans will be required to wear masks at the polls this year per Gov. Mike DeWine's order. However, LaRose nobody will be denied the right to vote.
In a statement, his office said:
"Per the governor’s mandate, masks are required. However, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged” appears within three different amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Any voter who shows up without a mask will be offered one. If they refuse, they’ll be asked to vote curbside or by mail if the voter is attempting to vote early. However, denying that individual the right to vote would deny them their constitutional right."
LaRose struck a deal with Mentor-based RB Sigma LLC to provide 462,000 surgical masks for poll workers.
To read over the guidance requirements for county boards, click here.
Chapter six: How and Where to Vote In Person
On Election Day, you must cast your ballot in your precinct at your designated polling place between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. If you don't know where your polling place is located, contact your county board of elections or click here to search for your polling place online.
Instructions for marking and casting your ballot are posted in each polling place. If you have any questions about how to mark or cast your ballot, or if you have incorrectly marked a ballot, immediately contact a precinct election official for instructions before you continue.
A voter with a physical or mental disability, or a voter who is unable to read or write, may be assisted by anyone of the voter's choice, except a candidate who appears on the ballot in that precinct, the voter's employer or the employer's agent, or an officer or agent of the voter's union.
A voter may also be assisted by two poll workers (each of a different political party). No one who assists a voter may disclose any information about how that person voted. For more information about access for voters with disabilities, please click here.
All voters must bring acceptable identification to the polls in order to verify their identity. Click here for a list of acceptable forms of identification.
Chapter seven: When Will Results Be Known?
With the number of absentee ballots expected to double in the state, the big question is: when will we see the results? Well, it may not be on election night.
For the first time, county officials expect up to half of all votes in the presidential election to be sent in by mail. Only about 20-25% of Ohio voters have typically voted by mail.
While absentee ballots are able to be processed as they arrive to county board of elections offices, meaning checked in and verified, that's not the same thing as counting the votes. In fact, none of those votes can be tallied until 7:30 pm on election night.
And as long as those ballots are postmarked by November 2, they don’t have to arrive until November 13 to be counted.
So, while that could delay our results, Ohioans can rest assured that as long as your absentee ballot arrives to your county's board of elections office by November 13, it will be counted. And you can make sure of that by tracking both your request and your actual ballots online.