Springtime elections are for primaries and local issues. While Ohio’s Election Day is several weeks away (March 17), a more pressing deadline is imminent. February 18 is the last day to register and to file corrections to voter registrations. State law requires that this happen 30 days before any election.
Why Does February 18 Matter?
If you are not registered as an active voter by February 18, you cannot vote in the March primary. The primary is your only opportunity to vote for your preferred candidate to represent your party in the November election. Likewise, it is your only opportunity to vote on specific local issues.
Am I Registered? Was I Purged?
According to Sue Dean-Dyke, an organizer at Cleveland’s grassroots group Mobilize the Vote, checking your voter registration should now be part of every citizen’s preparation for each election, given the national and state trends of canceling voter registrations. All voters are encouraged to routinely verify their registration status.
A visit to voteohio.gov and a click on “Check My Voter Registration” allows you to enter your name (must precisely match how you originally registered) and county. If your name comes up, click on it to see your registration details. A link is then provided if you need to change your address (which impacts your precinct for local elections and your polling location).
If your name does not appear, you may see a notice that says your registration is in “Confirmation Status.”This means that your registration has been suspended until you respond to a “confirmation notice” that came to you by mail (usually a small postcard that many don’t notice in their snail mail). Voting rights advocates say this jargon is misleading. If you are in Confirmation Status, you will NOT be able to vote on Election Day unless you correct your status with the Board of Elections.
I Need to Register
New or canceled voters can register online or can complete a Voter Registration Form. The form can be downloaded, or forms can be accessed at any public library (go to Customer Service) or the Board of Elections.
Complete the form very carefully, as it will be rejected if there are any errors or omissions. Note that all yellow sections are Mandatory Fields. There are three little boxes at the top that are easy to miss. Some registrants hurry through their application and accidentally reverse the boxes for date of birth and date of the signature.
The best way to avoid mistakes is to complete the form without hurrying and then proofread it carefully. If there are any errors on your form, it may not be approved.
Paper Voter Registration Forms can be submitted by mail, at the Board of Elections, or at any public library. The Board of Elections routinely collects submitted forms from all public library locations.
Once the form has been completed and submitted, you should receive a postcard in the mail within 20 days that confirms your registration, precinct, and polling location. If it has been more than 20 days since you submitted your form, call your local Board of Elections to check if there are any problems with your registration. Don’t wait–your vote is too important.
What to Expect on St. Patrick’s Day Election Day
While polls will be open from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm, for Cleveland, the March 17 date presents a unique complication — namely St. Patrick’s Day. Cleveland is known for its St. Patrick’s Day revelry, which can create parking and transit difficulties. According to a June 2019 cleveland.com article, “Democrats and elections officials in Cleveland are concerned the disruptions to downtown polling places and the competition for people’s time and attention will dampen turnout in one of the most populous areas of the state.”
Double-check your polling location, as there are expected poll closures due to St. Patrick’s Day festivities and the parade route.
How to Be an Engaged Citizen During Primary Season
Given the co-occurring challenges of voter registration purges and Election Day taking place on a heavily celebrated holiday, many Ohioans are wondering what they can do to ensure voter turnout.
Before February 18
- Verify or file your own registration status ASAP. If you have been purged or any of your personal information is incorrect, you have only until February 18 to correct this.
- Talk about voter registration/verification. Encourage all adults to register and/or verify their registrations by visiting voteohio.gov.
- Volunteer to register voters.
February 19 to March 17
- Visit vote411.org for non-partisan information on candidates and ballot issues.
- Concretely plan how you will vote:
- Vote early, in-person at the Board of Elections prior to March 1
- Vote by mail. Request the ballot online at the Board of Elections.
- Plan your day to get to your precinct’s poll location.
- Encourage all adults to do the same.
- Volunteer to reach out to registered voters to encourage them to get to the polls on Election Day.
While voting is a right in this country, it’s “use it or lose it” in Ohio. If you don’t vote over the course of six years, you will be removed from the voter rolls, says Dean-Dyke. We all need to take the necessary steps to make sure we’re able to vote on every Election Day.