College Student Dilemma: Absentee Voting
Many college students who live in Bay Village and Westlake have a number of challenges as they think about how to vote in the 2020 presidential election. Even in early July, not all students know where they will be living come November. Asking for an absentee ballot to be mailed to your Ohio home address and then expecting your parents to mail it on to you has a few hazards: Is there enough time for all this back-and-forth mailing? What if some piece is addressed wrong?
Here are some questions for students (and their parents) to consider:
- Are you registered to vote? In what state?
- Do you need to update your official address?
- Do you have a driver's license from the state whose ballot you prefer to use?
- Do you want to vote using an absentee/mail-in ballot?
- Do you have the needed postal stamps for both your ballot request and your ballot?
- What are the deadlines for each of these steps?
Basic answers to all of these are provided on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website at voteohio.gov. Brief answers are provided below to help students think through their voting plans.
Registration: If you registered with your home address in Cuyahoga County (and voted using that address in the past four years), you are almost ready to vote. You can double-check your eligibility to vote online at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, boe.cuyahogacounty.us.
If you registered in another county in Ohio where you attend college, you can double-check that you are duly registered at that location at voteohio.gov.
If you have registered (or want to register) in another state where you are attending college, check the Secretary of State website in that state. You must have proof of residency in that state, so check those requirements too. Not all states allow online registration.
Address: If your official Ohio address needs changed, you can start making those corrections electronically now. You will have to print out a paper form, fill it out and send it in to the Board of Elections. Requires one 55-cent (Forever) stamp.
Application for mail-in ballot: All voters registered in Ohio will automatically receive an application to use if they prefer to have a mail-in ballot. Look for this around Labor Day. You do not have to wait for this mailing; you can apply for a mail-in ballot now at boe.cuyahogacounty.us. From there, you will have to print the request form, complete it and mail it back to the Board of Elections.
The Ohio absentee ballot request form allows you to choose where to have the election officials send your ballot. This can be an out-of-state or out-of-county address as long as you are an Ohio registered voter. Similar arrangements are possible in all 50 states.
Regulations for mail-in ballots vary considerably from state to state, so if your voter registration record is another state, double check the procedures for requesting a mail-in ballot in that state. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission website offers a one-stop portal to each state’s rules at www.eac.gov.
Some states are still revising their mail-in ballot rules due to COVID-19 concerns. Recheck the procedures before you make your request.
Postage: You will need a 55-cent (Forever) stamp for mailing your application for a mail-in ballot back to the Board of Elections. (You can by books of 20 stamps many places, but it’s hard to buy just one stamp unless you go to the post office!) You will need a 70-cent stamp (or its equivalent) to mail in the ballot when you have finished voting.
Be sure to mail your completed ballot back to the appropriate Board of Elections by the end of October to ensure it will be counted.
Deadlines: There are almost too many different deadlines to summarize here. The best advice is to take action as soon as you can. Actual ballots will begin being mailed right after registration closes on Oct. 5, 2020. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Already, election officials are advising voters to recognize that higher-than-usual use of mail-in ballots may present slow postal service deliveries.
If you have a specific questions, post it to facebook.com/lwvgcwestshore and one of our voter service team members will reply.
Janice Patterson, League of Women Voters, Westlake/North Olmsted chapter chair
Chair, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter, League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland