Columbus — In a week or so, eligible Ohio voters will receive an application in the mail to request an absentee ballot for the November general election.
If you don’t, you probably should check your voter registration status to make sure your address and other details are accurate. That’s a good exercise to undertake regardless and can be done online at www.myohiovote.com.
If you do receive an application, you should take a moment to think about the implications of requesting an absentee ballot.
It could save you from potential headaches later on.
In Ohio, anyone can vote early over a four-week period before Election Day. This year, the early polls open on Oct. 7, barring a decision from a federal judge to restore “golden week.”
Eligible Ohioans can visit the polls in person during set hours or submit absentee ballots by mail or in person to their local boards of elections.
Applications for the latter are being mailed by Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office this month and should arrive in mailboxes sometime around Labor Day. Another batch will be mailed in October to cover residents who updated their registration information.
Husted is the only elected or public official with the authority to mail absentee ballot applications to voters, thanks to law changes OK’d by Statehouse Republicans. The mailings will cost about $1 million and will be covered by federal Help America Vote Act dollars; lawmakers will have to appropriate new money for future mailings.
Absentee ballot applications must be requested by Nov. 1 — that’s the Saturday before the election. They have to be postmarked by Nov. 3, the day before the election, or they can be dropped off in person at election boards on Election Day.
Seems pretty simple, right? If you look at the sample ballot online, it includes the name “Ivana Vote,” who lives on “East Street.”
As Husted said in a released statement, “This fall, from the comfort of their own homes, every Ohioan will have 24 hours a day, seven days a week to cast their ballot. Our successful vote-by-mail program represents one of the many ways we have made it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Ohio.”
But when you get people involved, even easy stuff gets complicated.
Some people will probably return absentee ballot applications thinking they’re voter registration forms.
Some will receive absentee ballots in the mail and misplace them or toss them in the trash.
Some will return absentee ballots and then try to vote again in person.
Some will return the ballots, change their mind on certain candidates and try to redo their selections.
And some will receive absentee ballots, decide they’d rather vote in person and show up at the polls on Election Day.
Voting rights advocated pointed out some of those problems two years ago, saying the widespread absentee application mailings were confusing to some voters and potentially increased the number of people having to vote provisionally.
Those are issued that can be worked out between eligible voters and their county elections officials, but you can avoid the hassle by refraining from requesting an absentee ballot if you don’t intend to use it.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.