Ohio breaking records with early and absentee voting

Kelly J. Kaczala

         Enthusiastic voters in Ohio are casting their ballots early in record numbers.
        Already 2.2 million Ohioans have voted in the 2020 general election, according to Frank LaRose, Ohio Secretary of State.
         After all the votes were counted in 2016, 1.9 million Ohioans voted early in-person or by mail. Two and a half times the number of Ohioans are voting early in-person compared to the same time in 2016.
        “We’ve already seen record breaking numbers of Ohioans taking advantage of early and absentee voting,’  LaRose said last week at a press conference.
        The state has over eight million registered voters, he said, “something we’re really proud of.”
        Absentee ballots are being returned at a rate that drastically outpaces that of 2016. Already, there are 1.5 million absentee ballots that have been returned to county boards of elections. In 2016, that number was essentially half that with just 766,017 absentee ballots returned. The doubling of the number of returned absentee ballots relative to 2016 is a very strong indicator that election mail is moving quickly and Ohioans are easily able to cast their ballots, according to LaRose.
        Once an absentee ballot is mailed, voters can track their ballots at voteohio.gov to make sure it was received by the local county board of elections.
        Absentee ballot requests increased by 430,458 to a total of 3,173,586 requests received by county boards of elections statewide. The total absentee ballots requested includes 25,653 requests from military and overseas voters. At the same time during the 2016 election, 1,594,220 absentee ballots had been requested. There are 841,000 outstanding absentee ballots that have not yet been returned to their county board of elections.
        Ohio voters enjoy more hours for early in-person voting than voters in 43 other states. So far this year, 743,130 Ohioans have voted early in-person. For comparison, at the same point in 2016, 288,865 voters had visited their early vote center to cast their ballot. In-person voting continues every day through Election Day, including the weekend.
        “Each week it’s a new record – and that’s because enthusiastic voters are taking advantage of Ohio’s convenient voting opportunities, which are some of the best in the nation,” said LaRose. “If  you’re one of the 841,000 voters who haven’t returned your ballot yet, the time is now to mail it in. That’s the surefire way to ensure your vote will be a part of the results the nation sees on election night.”
        All absentee ballots received by the county board of elections by the close of polls on November 3 will be included in the unofficial vote totals released on election night. Outstanding ballots that are postmarked by November 2 and received by the county board of elections within 10 days after the election will be included in the final official results that are released in late November. Every properly cast ballot will be counted. Boards of Elections must contact voters to correct any issues with their respective ballot up until the 7th day after the election. The Ohio Secretary of State must certify the election by November 28. 
        LaRose also noted that the right health and safety protocols have been put in place.
        “We worked with the Ohio Department of Health and the United States Center for Disease Control to put in place a 61-point check list so that every voter and poll worker can feel safe and comfortable coming to participate in early voting and election-day voting,” he said.
        The 61-point check list was launched two months ago.
        “Every board of elections is required to follow that check list. If you feel comfortable going to the grocery store, you should feel comfortable going to your polling location,” he said. “Much of the same precautions are in place: you’re going to see six feet of social distancing, you’re going to see Personal Protective Equipment being worn by voters and poll workers and election observers. There will be separate entrances and exits, and a door stop so people aren’t touching the door handle all day long.”


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