Absentee ballots make voting easier

Rebekah Maple

The days before the 2009 general election are dwindling, but luckily voting from home has never been easier.

Registered voters may cast absentee ballots for any reason up to 35 days before a general election. This year, Election Day falls on Nov. 3.

Absentee ballots were created so residents who were unable to attend the polls on Election Day could still cast their votes. Reasons for absence ranged from hospitalization to being confined in jail. Whatever the reason was, it had to be clearly stated and accepted by the Ohio statute.

Lois Enlow, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said since 2006, Ohio voters have had the option to request absentee ballots without giving a reason. Through the “no-fault” absentee balloting, a registered voter can request a ballot in person, fill out an online application or call the board of elections and request one. Military or overseas citizens may complete a federal postcard application, which is available online.

Enlow said the number of absentee ballots received so far this year is definitely higher than normal. The board was swamped with them last year, but she said it was because of the presidential election.

“The longer the legislation is in effect, the more people will hear about it and decide to vote from the comfort of their own homes,” Enlow said.

She said in 2007, 27.7 percent of registered electors voted, compared to 70 percent in the 2008 presidential election, which Enlow said was “obviously your biggest election.” She hasn’t estimated numbers for this year’s general election, but said she plans to do so before Nov. 3.

Portage County resident Carol Durbin said she cast an absentee ballot in the 2008 presidential election.

“I anticipated long lines on Election Day, so I decided to fill out a form online and mail it,” she said. “It was really easy, and I plan on doing the same thing this year.”

Durbin said November 2008 was the first time she cast an absentee ballot but said she has thought about it since the “no-fault” absentee bill was passed.

The ease and convenience of absentee voting gives citizens the freedom to cast ballots away from their designated voting site. Now people can feel confident when casting their vote if they will miss Election Day for any reason. If it is cast within the allotted time frame, the vote will be counted.

The Portage County Board of Elections Web site states that if a ballot is cast from anywhere in the U.S. and returned by mail, it must be postmarked the day before the election and received by the Board of Elections no later than 10 days after the election. If it is returned in person, it must be delivered to the board no later than the close of polls on Election Day.

Enlow said many residents have already voted for this year’s general election. There are voting machines open at the Portage County Board of Elections, which is located on South Meridian Street in Ravenna, every day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. She said there will also be two Saturdays, Oct. 24 and 31, when people can vote absentee. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on those days.

“I do expect more people to vote in this election,” Enlow said. “We’ve got a lot of races going on throughout the county, which is not usually the case.”

Contact public affairs reporter Rebekah Maple at [email protected].