by Steve Van Auken

With a presidential election coming on Nov. 3, in the middle of a health crisis, Summit County residents are considering how best to go about casting their ballot.  

In Ohio, any U.S. citizen who has registered and has one of the prescribed forms of identification is able to vote.  (The accepted forms of I.D. for voters are listed at VoteOhio.gov. Most people use a driver’s license or Ohio I.D., but there are other ways to prove who you are.) There are few exceptions.

Read more: Summit County needs poll workers for the November election. Here’s how to help.

You CANNOT vote if:

  • You were convicted of a felony and are currently in jail or prison as a result
  • A court has found you to be incompetent 

You CAN vote if:

  • You are on probation or parole
  • You are in jail awaiting trial
  • You have been incarcerated for a misdemeanor 

The first step is to get registered (the sooner, the better) or make sure you are still registered (for example, if you have moved). To do this: 

You have options about how to vote: In person or by mail. There are a couple of important considerations. One is that voting by mail exposes a person to the least risk of infection.  Another is that no one, from the Secretary of State to a clerk at the local Board of Elections, knows for sure what in-person voting will look like on election day. It is possible you could show up at your local polling place to find a very long line, or possibly even a closed polling site. It will have a lot to do with how many poll workers officials are able to find and train.  

Voting by mail takes more planning, but it can eliminate a lot of headaches.

One voting choice is Early In-Person Voting. Starting Oct. 6, you can go to Summit County’s Early Vote Center at 500 Grant St. in Akron. Make sure you are registered first. Bring your identification. Staff members will give you a ballot. Mark your choices and hand it to them.  

Early In-Person Voting ends at 2 pm on Nov. 2, the day before election day. 

Another choice is to vote the traditional way, at your local polling place. (If you are registered, you can confirm your polling place on VoteOhio.Gov.)  Again, there are no guarantees that even the published sites will be open and running smoothly this election day.

Another choice, expected to be very popular this year, is Absentee Voting By Mail. (Absentee voting and voting by mail refer to the same process.) You can start this now — and the sooner, the better.  

There are two steps in the vote-by-mail process. The first is to fill out an absentee ballot application. You can download this at VoteOhio.Gov in both English and Spanish. Fill it out by hand, put a stamp on an envelope, and mail it to: Summit County Board of Elections, 470 Grant St., Akron, Ohio, 44311.

If you don’t have access to a printer, you can write out an absentee ballot application yourself. It must include: 

  1. Your name 
  2. Your signature
  3. The address at which you’re registered to vote
  4. Your birth date
  5. Your Ohio driver’s license number or the last four digits of your social security number, or a copy of a qualifying ID
  6. A statement identifying the Nov. 3 general election 
  7. A statement that says you are a qualified elector 
  8. And the address to which you want the ballot to be mailed, if it is different from the address at which you’re registered. (College students, if you vote at school but are at home during the pandemic, take note of this!)

To start the second step, the Board of Elections mails you an actual ballot. Mark your choices. Put a stamp on an envelope and mail it back to the Board. 

You can also drive to the Board of Elections and drop it off.  

VoteOhio.Gov notes, “To make sure your absentee ballot is counted, it must be received by your Board of Elections by 7:30 p.m.on Election Day OR be postmarked by the day before Election Day.”  

These are the guidelines that fit most people’s situations. There are ways in which others — for example, people in the hospital, people in the military overseas, or people in jail awaiting trial — can vote. Check VoteOhio.Gov for instructions.

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