by Rosalie Murphy
It’s October in Ohio, which means it’s impossible to avoid messages about candidates and ballot issues. You might have decided who you’re going to vote for — but have you figured out how you’re going to vote?
Voting requires time, and voting at the polls requires reliable transportation. But people are already voting every weekday at the Summit County Board of Elections. And if you request an absentee ballot and buy a few stamps, you can vote from your couch.
Note that Ohio requires voters to present identification when they vote in person. Make sure you bring one of the following documents to the polls with you:
- Your Ohio driver’s license
- Another government-issued ID, including a military ID or state ID
- A copy of a utility bill, bank statement or paycheck with your name and current address
- Full details of acceptable IDs are available here.
(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said that a copy of a notice of voter registration was acceptable to meet voter ID requirements. That was incorrect. We regret the error.)
Today, make a plan for how and when you’re going to vote. Then, ask three friends to do the same.
How to vote early:
Voting in Summit County has already begun. If you’re registered, you can cast your ballot now at the Summit County Board of Elections complex at 500 Grant Street in downtown Akron. Walk into the Early Voting Center and tell a clerk you’d like to vote.
Early voting is technically absentee voting, so you’ll have to fill out an application for a ballot — but after you’ve submitted that, you can fill out your ballot on the spot.
Early voting is available on the following weekdays:
- Oct. 15 – Oct. 19 from 8 am until 5 pm
- Oct. 22 – Oct. 26 from 8 am until 5 pm
- Oct. 29 – Nov. 2 from 8 am until 7 pm
- Nov. 5 from 8 am until 2 pm
Early voting is available on the following Saturdays:
- Oct. 27 from 8 am until 4 pm
- Nov. 3 from 8 am until 4 pm
Early voting is also available on Sunday, Nov. 4, from 1 pm until 5 pm.
If you decide to vote early, commit to a date and time and put it on your calendar. Then find a friend or family member to go with you so you can hold each other accountable.
How to vote with an absentee ballot:
Any registered voter can vote using an absentee ballot, even if you’ll be in town on Election Day. Some people just prefer it — you can take your time filling out the ballot from home and return it by mail, without waiting in line.
But voting absentee isn’t that easy. You have to request a ballot, wait for it to be mailed to you, and then ensure that you return it on time.
To request an absentee ballot:
- You must already be registered to vote.
- Fill out the absentee ballot request form. This is a document you have to print out, fill out, and mail to the Board of Elections. You cannot do this online. You can download a copy of the request form here.
- Mail the request form to the Summit County Board of Elections, 470 Grant Street, Akron, OH 44311.
The Board of Elections must receive your request for an absentee ballot by noon on Saturday, Nov. 3.
To vote absentee:
- After you’ve filed your absentee ballot request form, you will receive your absentee ballot in the mail.
- If you think it’s taking too long to get your ballot, you can check the status of your request online.
- For your vote to count, it must be received by the Board of Elections by 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6. You can either mail it or drop it off in person. If you choose the mail, make sure the envelope is postmarked on or before Monday, Nov. 5. If you choose to drop it off in person, make sure you visit the BOE during open hours — which are the same as the early voting hours listed above.
If you vote with an absentee ballot, print and fill out the absentee ballot request form right now.
When your ballot arrives, block out time to research candidates and make decisions. Put a note on your calendar for Oct. 26, a week and a half before election day, reminding yourself to put the completed ballot in the mail so it reaches the Board of Elections with plenty of time.
How to vote on Election Day:
To vote in person on Election Day, the first thing you need to know is where to go. You can find your polling place here, via the Summit County Board of Elections.
Second, you’ll need to have a plan to get there. Lyft and Uber are offering free and discounted rides to voters on Election Day. Additionally, most campaigns organize rides to the polls, regardless of who you plan to vote for. Contact any local party organization for more details.
Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. Remember that lines are often lengthy on Election Day, especially in the evening, so it can be wise to vote early. Think about your other commitments — to your employer, childcare provider, et cetera — and talk with those people well before Election Day about what you’ll do if voting makes you late.
If you’re in a position to do so, help your neighbors vote on Election Day. Can you take a few hours and volunteer to drive people to the polls? Can you sign up to be a poll worker? Can you offer to watch kids or cook dinner so your neighbors can wait in long evening lines?
If you vote on Election Day, find out where your polling place is and plan your day so you have time to go. Then stick to it.