Election 2020: Your complete guide for how to vote in Ohio, early or on Nov. 3
What are the deadlines for voting?
For mail-in voting, you officially can request a ballot until noon on Saturday, Oct. 31.
But high volumes of absentee ballots brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic could strain the U.S. Postal Service and make it difficult to get your ballot back quickly enough to return it before the deadline. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose recommends voters get in their requests by Tuesday, Oct. 27.
For an absentee ballot to count, it must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2, the day before Election Day. It also must arrive at the board of elections by Friday, Nov. 13, 10 days after the election. Voters can also drop off their absentee ballot at the county board of elections on Nov. 3.
Early in-person voting is offered through 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 2, the day before the election.
How do I request a mail ballot?
You don't need a reason to vote by mail in Ohio, so all you have to do is submit a paper form to the county board of elections with your information. They cannot be submitted electronically.
LaRose sent absentee ballot requests to every registered voter in the state, but you also can request one from your local board of elections or print one at VoteOhio.gov.
If you don’t have a printer, boards of elections are supposed to also accept hand-written applications that contain the same information as the form.
You can mail it or take it to your county board of elections. In Franklin County, that board is located at 1700 Morse Road in Columbus.
How do I return a mail ballot?
You can mail it using the enclosed, pre-addressed envelope. Make sure you've also used the security envelope inside.
You will need to pay for postage, which in Franklin County will be 55 cents — a single "Forever stamp." The postage needed can vary slightly by the length of the ballot in your area. The U.S. Postal Service said it will still get ballots without postage where they need to go, but there may be greater delays.
Once you've mailed it in, you can track your ballot using the tool at VoteOhio.gov.
You can also drop it off using the drop box at your county elections center. In Franklin County, that is located at 1700 Morse Road in Columbus. The county has two drop boxes at its location, one of which is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. A close relative is allowed to drop off a ballot for someone else.
The ballot must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2, or dropped off at the elections center by 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.
If you are mailing it in and close to the deadline, it is recommended you go to your post office to ensure it gets the postmark on time.
How do I vote early in person?
First, locate your county early voting center, typically located at the board of elections. Here are the locations in Franklin County and nearby counties:
- Franklin County Board of Elections: 1700 Morse Road, Columbus
- Licking County Board of Elections: 20 S 2nd St., Newark
- Fairfield County Board of Elections: 951 Liberty Drive, Lancaster
- Pickaway County Board of Elections: 141 W. Main St. 800, Circleville
- Madison County Board of Elections: 1423 State Route 38 NW, London
- Union County Board of Elections: 2079 U.S. Hwy 23 N., Delaware
There have been several reports of long lines at the Franklin County voting center and others across the state. Social distancing and mask-wearing protocols are in place.
In the final week leading up to the election, the early voting centers are open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m Sunday. On Monday, Nov. 2, the last day of early voting, hours are 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
You will need identification to vote.
How do I vote on Election Day in person?
First, you'll need to find your polling place. This tool on VoteOhio.gov connects you to your county voting site, where you can enter your address and find your location. You can also call your county board of elections.
The polling places are open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3.
Social distancing and mask-wearing protocols are in place. You will need identification to vote.
Can I vote in person even if I requested a mail ballot?
Yes. If you requested an absentee ballot but want to vote in-person, you still can go to your county’s early voting center to cast a “regular” ballot. Boards of elections have safeguards in place to ensure no voter’s ballots will count twice.
If you choose to vote in person on Election Day, your precinct polling place will require you to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted later only if you did not submit the requested absentee ballot.
What do I need to vote in person?
You will need a mask and valid government identification.
The state is asking that all voters wear face masks in polling locations. If a voter refuses to wear a mask inside, they will be asked to vote curbside. Poll observers are required to wear masks.
Valid identification includes:
- An unexpired photo ID with your current address such as an Ohio driver's license, including those granted extensions on expirations because of the coronavirus pandemic
- A valid military ID
- A utility bill
- A bank statement
- A government check or paycheck
Driver's licenses from states other than Ohio, Social Security cards and passports are not accepted.
When and how will early votes be counted in Ohio?
Any absentee ballot received on or before Election Day will be among the first ballots counted in Ohio.
Voters' qualifications and signatures can be checked early, and votes can be electronically "scanned" – or entered into the computer system. The report on vote counts is not allowed to be run until 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
But after the polls close, the earliest results released in each county will be for voters who either voted early in person, by mail or by dropping off their absentee ballot at the board of elections. In-person Election Day votes will be added to those totals throughout the night.
Is mail voting secure?
The Dispatch has found repeatedly that claims of voter fraud and rigged elections were baseless in Ohio, citing studies and comments made by current and past elections officials, including LaRose and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a former secretary of state.
“For months, the Secretary has consistently pointed out that absentee voting by mail in Ohio is convenient and secure,” said Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for LaRose. “Unlike some other states, Ohio’s long history of successfully providing absentee voting as an option for voters has allowed us to put in place both the infrastructure and necessary safeguards to serve as a national model.”
How do I prepare to vote?
You can print out a mock ballot on your county's election board website or through The Dispatch's voter guide. Our guide includes information on key races, candidates' stances and links to our stories.
What can go wrong with my ballot?
There have been issues with ballots being delayed and wrong ballots being sent out in the first few weeks of voting.
In northern Ohio, issues with a vendor delayed the mail ballots' distribution. In Franklin County, the first round of ballots to go out included as many as 50,000 incorrect ones.
Franklin County says everyone who got an incorrect ballot has been sent a correct one, and it has a system in place to ensure only one vote gets counted for those residents.
In addition, there is a risk of ballots being rejected over errors in filling them out. Nearly 23,000 ballots could be discarded in Ohio, a USA TODAY, Columbia Journalism Investigations and PBS series FRONTLINE investigation found.
Common mistakes that occur with Ohio ballots are writing down the date the ballot was filled out instead of the voter's birth date and forgetting to sign the ballot, elections officials say.
Fortunately, the state is working to offer ways for Ohioans to get a second chance to make sure their ballots are counted. The absentee forms include spaces for voters to voluntarily include their phone number and email so they can be quickly contacted if elections workers spot a problem.
LaRose spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan said few ballots are thrown out because of mismatched signatures, a determination made by a bipartisan team. In November 2016, 332 were rejected. In this year's primary, 217 were not counted.
Ohio voters have until seven days after the election, Nov. 10, to "cure" their ballot if there are issues.