Local boards of elections see increase in absentee ballot requests

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– Thousands of Ohioans will not vote in person this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of people who requested applications for absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 general election could set records in many counties.

“We’ve never had this many employees in the board of elections office this early and we’ve had to do that because of the massive volume coming in,” said Lorain County Board of Elections Director Paul Adams.

He said by early September in 2016, the board received about 1,500 absentee ballot applications. In 2020, as of Sept. 3, it has received more than 34,000 and they keep coming in.

Adams said even though the application and the ballot physically go in the mail, it’s not voting by mail. It’s the same absentee system that’s been in place for 14 years, he said.

“Different states use different terminology. In the state of Ohio, there is absentee voting period. There is no other type of voting that can happen. Absentee can happen by mail or it can happen in person that we are going to do at the board of elections starting on Oct. 6,” Adams said.

In Cuyahoga County, many people are delivering their absentee ballot applications by hand. Thousands of folks have already requested applications though the state’s website. This week, the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office sent an absentee ballot application to every registered voter.

Cuyahoga County Board of Elections spokesman Mike West said there are plenty of precautions in place so that no one can apply for a ballot more than once.

“What happens is if you already sent in a ballot application and we get another one, your record is flagged right there that you’ve already asked. And the second one or third one or however many you send in don’t count,” West said.

If an absentee ballot request is accepted, the actual ballot will be mailed to voters on Oct. 6. That’s the day early voting starts in Ohio’s 88 counties.

“The name of the game is do not procrastinate because everything’s better if you don’t wait until the last minute. That’s why we’re happy to see these folks coming in and dropping off their ballot applications,” West said.

If you do choose to vote absentee by mailing it or hand delivering it to your local board of election, officials suggest you don’t delay.

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