Early voting begins today: What you need to know about Election 2020

Today is the day more than two million absentee ballots hit the mail and the first day Ohioans can begin voting early in person in an election turned unprecedented by a coronavirus pandemic.

Twice as many Ohioans are expected to vote by mail than in 2016, and officials are pushing for others to cast votes in-person before Nov. 3 to avoid a chaotic Election Day. Election officials say extraordinary steps are being made to keep voters safe while maintaining the integrity of the election as they cast votes for not only the nation’s leader but for U.S. congressional and Statehouse seats, county offices and local tax issues.

Voters, though, continue to have many questions, including ones submitted through a form online at Journal-News.com where we will continue to answer readers’ questions about voting through Nov. 3.

With millions of absentee ballot requests now made and those ballots going out, several readers have asked how they can check the status of their ballots.

Question: I submitted a request for an absentee ballot back in late June. Is there a way to find out if my request was received?

Answer: Voters can track their absentee ballot applications and then the status of their mail-in ballots on their county’s board of elections website. A link to each county’s tracking page can be found on the Secretary of State’s website at: https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/toolkit/ballot-tracking/.

A frequent question from voters — some second-guessing sending ballots back by mail — is whether they can still vote in person if they requested a mail-in absentee ballot.

Question: If I request an absentee ballot but don’t fill it out and bring the blank absentee ballot to the polls to vote in person is my vote still provisional?

Answer: The answer to this question recently changed: It depends whether you vote early in-person or show up at your precinct on Election Day.

Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a directive saying that people who have requested an absentee ballot but wish to instead vote early in person may vote on regular ballots rather than provisional ballots through Nov. 2. But those who have requested an absentee ballot but decide to vote at the polls on Election Day will have to vote on provisional ballots, which will be reviewed by bipartisan board teams prior to counting after Election Day to make sure the person has not voted twice.

But if a voter receives an absentee ballot and now wants to vote early in person, they should take the absentee ballot with them to the early polling location, said Brian Sleeth, Warren County’s Board of Elections director.

“Due to the Secretary of State’s directive, if we’ve mailed out a ballot and they show up to vote we’re going to ask them for the ballot that we mailed them,” he said. “If they don’t have it, we’re going to soil the original ballot so no one else can return it. And then we’ll issue them a regular ballot here in our office.”

But on Election Day, there will be no alternative for those who requested a mail-in ballot but want to vote in person at their precinct, Sleeth said.

A few readers want to know what precautions area elections boards are taking to keep poll workers and voters safe from coronavirus.

Question: What COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place for in-person voting early and on election day? I would like to know what the voting environment would be like in terms of waiting line spacing, booth spacing, mask requirements, etc. I want to make an informed decision about whether to vote by mail or in person.

Answer: Area elections officials all say early in-person voters can expect many safety measures in place, some which may make the process take longer.

Those include providing personal protective equipment to poll workers and masks to voters if needed. Area elections boards all say they are implementing measures to maintain social distancing, spreading out machines and sometimes altering pedestrian patterns within buildings.

Due to the spacing of equipment, fewer people will be able to be vote at the same time, officials said.

Area boards will have disposable masks for voters that don’t have one. However, that doesn’t ensure you won’t end up near a voter not wanting to wear a mask.

Question: Will drop boxes be available for those who wish to bypass the postal system? If so, where? And will they be secure?

Answer: Secure drop boxes are required at all of Ohio’s 88 counties for boards of elections to accept absentee ballots 24 hours a day.

The issue was clarified Monday by LaRose, who issued a directive requiring secure receptacles to accept ballots 24/7. The directive also allows for two drop boxes per county, which may include a drive-up box outside an elections board as well as one inside the office.

Not all elections boards want people dropping off completed ballots inside to mitigate the risk from coronavirus.

When and where you can vote early in person

Early in-person voting hours are uniform across Ohio’s counties.

Today-Friday, Oct. 9, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Monday-Friday, Oct. 12-Oct 16, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Monday-Friday, Oct. 19-Oct. 23, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 24, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 25, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Monday-Friday Oct. 26-Oct. 30, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 31, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 1, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 2, 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Where to vote early in person

Butler County Board of Elections

1802 Princeton Road, Suite 600, Hamilton, OH 45011 Telephone: (513) 887-3700 Fax: (513) 887-5535 E-mail: butler@OhioSoS.gov Website: elections.bcohio.gov

Warren County Board of Elections

520 Justice Dr., Lebanon, OH 45036 Telephone: (513) 695-1358 Fax: (513) 695-2953 E-mail: wcboe@warrencountyohio.gov Website: vote.warrencountyohio.gov

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