STEUBENVILLE - "My vote, My right, My responsibility." That is what a sign states from the Ohio Secretary of State's office concerning the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.
The secretary of state's office will be mailing absentee voter applications to all registered voters in the state after Labor Day in an effort to increase voter turnout.
Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said the mailing of the absentee voter applications creates fairness across the state for the first time since no-fault absentee voting was introduced in Ohio.
ELECTION COMING – Diane Gribble, Jefferson County Board of Elections director, holds a poster from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office urging voters to cast ballots in the November general election. The secretary of state’s office will be mailing absentee voting applications to all registered voters in the state after Labor Day. -- Mark Law
"Voting by mail is secure, convenient and, because we expect many Ohioans will take advantage of this option, it will make Election Day run more smoothly," Husted said. "Making it easier for Ohio voters to cast their ballots by mail will reduce the chance of long lines at the polls."
Diane Gribble, Jefferson County Board of Elections director, said the mailing will occur in two phases. The first will be a mailing to registered voters who were on the books as of July 30. The second will occur sometime around the first week of October for people who registered to vote or changed their address after July 30, she said.
The voter registration deadline is Oct. 9 for the Nov. 6 general election.
This is the first time for a statewide mailing of absentee voting applications by the secretary of state. Gribble said other organizations, such as statewide Democrat or Republican parties, have mailed out applications in the past.
Gribble said she doesn't think the absentee voting applications will impact voter turnout in the general election, just the number of people who will take advantage of absentee voting.
"We know there are people who still like to go to the polls on Election Day," Gribble said.
The county board of elections four years ago in the presidential election had the highest number of early and absentee voting - 8,000 -which was made up of 3,000 voters who came to the board of election's office to cast ballots early and 5,000 who mailed in absentee ballots.
Gribble expects the number of early and absentee voters to double in this general election.
"We are planning for about 16,000 this year," she said.
The board of elections in May approached the county commissioners seeking additional money for the upcoming election.
The commissioners appropriated $605,000 to the board of elections at the beginning of the year, with the state contributing an additional $17,000 for mapping congressional districts.
Board of Elections member Frank Bruzzese said the board of elections spent $746,000 four years ago during the presidential election.
Commissioners agreed to appropriate an additional $102,000 to the board of elections, bringing the budget total to $722,000. Bruzzese said that should be enough to cover expenses associated with the general election in November.
Gribble said the state is covering the cost of mailing out the absentee voting applications but the county board of elections has to pay to mail the ballots. The mailing, depending on the size of the ballot, can cost upwards of $1.40 for each, she said.
There are currently 50,156 registered voters in the county.
Four years ago, 36,579 votes were case in the general election - a 72.9 percent voter turnout.
Gribble said there will be voter registration drives in the weeks ahead, including at the county fair and at political party headquarters.
Gribble said she doesn't believe voter turnout will be as high in this presidential election as compared to four years ago.
She said the number of absentee voters has increased because of a change in state law in 2006. Voters previously had to have a reason for not being able to go to the polls, such as being out of town on Election Day. The state changed the requirements to eliminate the excuse for not going to the polls.
Voters wishing to apply for an absentee ballot will have to provide proof of identification, such as a driver's license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number. If that can't be provided, then a copy of a current and valid photo identification, military identification, a current (within the last 12 months) utility bill, including cell phone bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows the applicant's name and current address.
Registered voters wishing to vote early at the county board of elections or apply in person for an absentee ballot can do so by 6 p.m. on Nov. 2, Gribble said.
Persons wanting to apply for an absentee ballot by mail must do so before noon on Nov. 3.
Absentee ballots can be returned in person to the county board of elections prior to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
Absentee votes by mail postmarked by Nov. 5 must be received by the county board of elections within 10 days after the election to be included in the official vote count.
Gribble said there was another change in state voting laws. Persons who are hospitalized or have a child who is hospitalized can request an absentee ballot prior to 3 p.m. on Election Day.
She said the board usually has two or three people who make such a request, but the number has been as high as 25. Gribble said two boards of elections workers go to the hospital on Election Day and wait until the person fills out the absentee ballot.
The deadline for placing issues and levies on the Nov. 6 ballot or filing for one of two nonpartisan county court judge races is 4 p.m. Wednesday.