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10 things to know about early voting, absentee ballots, voter registration

by Marc Kovac | Capital Bureau Chief Published: September 8, 2016 11:06 AM
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Columbus -- If you're an eligible voter in Ohio, you probably received an application in the mail in recent days to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.

If you didn't, there's still plenty of time to do something about it.

Here are 10 things you should know about early voting and absentee ballots and voter registrations as we get closer to Election Day on Nov. 8:

1. Are You Registered? First things first:

If you're eligible and plan to vote in the presidential election, you should double check your registration to ensure your address and other details are accurate.

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The process can be completed at your county elections board office or quickly online, via the secretary of state's website, MyOhioVote.com. To check your registration, you'll have to provide your full name, address number and birth year.

2. Updating Your Registration:

If you have moved or need to change any of the information on your registration, you can do that online, too. You'll need your driver's license or state ID number, birth date and last four numbers of your Social Security number.

You can also access a paper form on the website that can be completed and submitted to your county election board.

3. The Deadline:

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If you want to vote in the general election, you have until Oct. 11 to register or update your information.

4. No Online Registration, Yet:

Though you can update your address and other personal information online, you still can't register to vote through the website. But that will change next year, thanks to legislation OK'd earlier this year by lawmakers, who agreed to allow online registration starting in 2017.

5. Golden Week?

As of right now, Ohio's early voting period will begin on Oct. 12, the day after registration ends.

That could change, pending court intervention. There's a lawsuit making its way through the system that seeks to reinstate Ohio's Golden Week, when eligible residents could register and cast ballots on the same day.

There have been a couple of different court decisions on that issue. But for the time being, Golden Week is gone.

6. Absentee Ballot Applications:

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted's office has already mailed absentee ballot applications to eligible Ohio voters, including those who have voted regularly in recent elections and those who cast ballots in the last presidential election.

According to Josh Eck, a spokesman for Husted, the mailings were sent to anyone listed as active in the statewide database, plus those listed as inactive but who voted four years ago.

7. Concerns:

There have been concerns voiced about eligible Ohioans who have been purged from the rolls, at times because they have not voted in years.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), for one, has repeatedly urged Husted to send absentee ballot applications to all eligible residents. She introduced legislation last year on the issue that has not moved in the Republican-controlled legislature.

"Engaged, eligible, registered voters are being removed from Husted's mailing lists for the flimsiest of reasons, and my bill would require the Secretary to treat everyone fairly and the same under the law," she said in a released statement. "Unfortunately, it seems that we have a secretary of state who is actively engaged in finding ways to exclude targeted groups of voters and it must stop now."

But according to Eck, voters were omitted from the mailing list if their boards of elections believed they had moved but hadn't updated their addresses.

"We don't want to encourage someone to cast an absentee ballot from an address where they do not live," he said.

Over the past several years, the secretary of state's office has made a concerted effort to update the state's voter database, removing deceased Ohioans from the list and dealing with more than 1 million duplicate registrations.

Voters who have not participated in an election for half a dozen years also have been purged, though they received warning in advance -- Eck said such voters received a couple of absentee ballot applications, a mailing from the board of elections and likely were asked about updating their registration information when they renewed driver's licenses or plates.

8. Didn't Get One In The Mail?

If you are eligible to vote but didn't receive an absentee ballot application in the mail, you can print one directly from MyOhioVote.com. That is, after you have confirmed you are registered.

9. Nobody Votes Until October:

Early voting starts on Oct. 12, the day after the registration deadline. You can mail your absentee ballot application to elections officials now, but you won't get your ballot until then.

Absentee ballots must be requested by noon on Nov. 5. Those ballots have to be postmarked by Nov. 7 to be counted, though you can submit them in person at your local elections board on Election Day, too.

ten. If You Ask For It, Use It:

If you don't and try to vote at your polling place on Election Day, you may end up casting a provisional ballot until elections officials can confirm you didn't use your absentee ballot.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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