The single best way to ensure your vote is counted is to vote early.
Voting early and in-person is also much easier — especially this year with Election Day scheduled on St. Patrick’s Day — than voting on Election Day at the polls. The lines are shorter, you can go on any day of the week (there is even Sunday voting on March 15), and you will avoid traffic interferences due to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
In addition, voting in-person at the Board of Elections will be much more convenient for voters whose precincts are impacted by poll closures due to the holiday. According to a February 2020 ideastream article, over 26,000 Cuyahoga voters will be impacted by poll location changes; much of that impact is due to the St. Patrick’s Day revelry.
According to Sue Dean-Dyke of Cleveland’s Mobilize the Vote, voting early and in-person bypasses Election Day confusions and potential voter suppression. Dean-Dyke explains that data entry errors and changes in contracted data management vendors often lead to a small typo with a big effect — it prohibits someone from voting. Because of the vulnerability to data purges and errors, all voters should check their registration status a few weeks before EVERY election. It’s part of our adult responsibilities.
University Heights resident Brady Dindia knows all about the importance of checking voter registration because of the difficulties she experienced in the 2018 election. “Fortunately, I looked up my registration a few weeks before Election Day. I was not showing up on the rolls. I called in, and they couldn’t find me. I explained that I have been voting in the same precinct for over a decade and have voted in every election.” Persistence with the Board of Elections discovered that there was a typo in Dindia’s registration.
Dindia’s experience was solved over the phone because it was not Election Day. Had she been at the polls, she would not have been allowed to cast a traditional ballot. Instead, she would have been offered a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots are offered on Election Day to people whose registrations are not verified in the pollbook. While a provisional ballot is better than no ballot at all, provisional ballots are counted after Election Day, and most of us want our votes counted in real time.
Vote Early In-Person.
When you vote early in-person, you are casting your ballot at the hub — the Board of Elections. If there are any irregularities in your voting process (whether it’s about your registration or the ballot itself), when you vote in-person, you are physically in a building staffed by people who handle a large volume of voters and ballots every day. If difficulties arise, you can easily access solutions through staff and supervisors.
Quite simply, voting early and in-person lessens the chance of being relegated to a provisional ballot. However, there are other benefits of voting early and in-person:
- No ID required. The last few digits of your social security number are all you need.
- Convenience! Go when it works for you. The Board of Elections is open weekdays and Saturdays, with extended days & hours March 9 to March 15.
- A lot less waiting. The lines downtown are shorter than most precincts, and staff is available to help you know where to park.
- Fewer traffic dilemmas. Avoid traffic headaches and the impact of precinct closures/relocations due to the co-occurring St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
- Same-day remedy for any irregularities that might interfere with casting a ballot.
- Satisfied curiosity. You can learn how one office manages the logistics for over 1000 precincts. Look for the cubbies of ballots —it’s impressive!
- The joyful clamor of the brass bell that rings when a first-time voter casts their ballot.
- Free time on Election Day!
Vote Early By Mail.
For those who cannot vote early and in-person, voting by mail (also called an absentee ballot) is the next best option. This is a two-step process.
First, go online to print a Vote By Mail application, or call the Board of Elections to request one. You must sign and mail or deliver your application to the Board of Elections. Your absentee ballot will then be mailed to you — wherever you request, even if it’s not in the state of Ohio. Because these steps take time, voters should request their absentee ballots at least two weeks before Election Day. The deadline for a postmark is Monday, March 16.
NOTE: Once you’ve requested an absentee ballot, you can’t change your voting method. You will not be allowed to vote at the polls. The only way to cast your ballot is to mail it or deliver it to the Board of Elections (not your voting precinct).
While voting by mail is reliable and includes a tracking number so you can verify that your ballot has been received, Dean-Dyke has seen some mail-in ballots rejected due to the lack of a postmark, including her own daughter’s ballot. For this reason, Dean-Dyke encourages voters to hand deliver their vote-by-mail ballots directly to the Board of Elections. To be counted, ballots must be delivered by 7:30pm on Election Day. The Board of Elections has a secure ballot bin available 24/7 in its parking lot.
If you cannot hand-deliver, double check the amount of postage required–many ballots need extra postage. Take your ballot directly to a post office — no later than the day before Election Day (in this case Monday, March 16), and request a postmark.
Like early in-person voting, voting by mail has many benefits:
- No ID required. You need just the last four digits of your social security number.
- Ability to request a vote-by-mail application online or by phone.
- Time to assess candidates. You have time with your ballot for unhurried research about candidates and issues. You can decide your vote from your kitchen table!
- A secure drop-box at the Board of Elections is available 24/7 if you prefer not to mail it.
- Early count. Your vote will be among the first counted. (Mail-in/absentee ballots are the first numbers you see reported when results are tabulated.)
- Free time on Election Day!
For the upcoming Ohio primary, Dean-Dyke notes that voter protection organizations are ramping-up volunteer coverage at the polls for election protection. “It is unusual to have full voter protection mode for a primary,” says Dean-Dyke.
For this reason alone, all adults are encouraged to vote early — in-person or by mail — to reduce Election Day foot traffic, challenges to registrations, and ballot-counting issues.
A bonus — if you vote early, then your schedule will be free on Election Day to volunteer at the polls, to drive voters to precincts, or to cover things at work so your colleagues can vote. Voting early is good for you and your community!
If you have difficulty casting your ballot, call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
Within the state of Ohio, your registration, voting location, and other information are easy to check at www.voteohio.gov.
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