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Government & Politics

What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Is Counted in Ohio

early voting 2012

Early voting hours expanded this week and voters in Ohio have a lot of questions about casting their ballots, especially when it comes to provisional ballots. 

The fight in the election battleground of Ohio has been fierce which can raise tension for voters. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow went to Facebook and Twitter to find out questions voters have, and then sat down with Secretary of State spokesperson Josh Eck to read over them.

Chow: “What does a voter need to have with them if they’re voting in-person or on Election Day.”

Eck: “When you go to vote early in-person, they’re going to ask you to fill out a form and put your identifying information on it: your name, your date of birth, your address and either the last four digits of your Social Security number or your driver’s license number, and they’re going to ask you to sign it.

Remaining early voting hours: Today and Friday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m.-:4 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m.; Oct. 31-Nov. 4 8 am.-7 p.m.; Nov. 5 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Nov. 6 1-5 p.m.; Nov. 7 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

"And of course you’re going to see your poll worker compare that information to what’s in the poll book. They’re going to compare the signature and all the identifying information to what you used when you originally registered to vote. ...

"On Election Day the rules are slightly different, if you go on Election Day between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. then you’re going to bring some form of identification. We have these listed on our website but it’s basic things, it’s state identification, it’s a utility bill, or a paystub, anything that has your address on it so they can verify that you’re voting in the correct place.”

Chow: “Why would a voter be asked to vote on a provisional ballot?”

Eck: "Provisional ballots are not second class ballots; they’re second- chance ballots. You get a provisional ballot if maybe you didn’t bring any identification with you to the polls.

"If you didn’t bring any of those things with you to the polls,then they might ask you to cast a provisional ballot so they can verify your identity. The most common reason for somebody to be given a provisional ballot is if they just aren’t (showing up as) registered to vote. So they’re going to give you a provisional ballot so they can just double check that before they count the ballots.”

Chow: “If I vote provisionally do I have to go back to the board of elections for verification?”

Eck: “If you didn’t have identification with you on Election Day and they asked you to cast a provisional ballot, you’ll have seven days after the election to show up to the board of elections and show your ID and verify that you really were who you said that you were. And then they’ll make sure that your ballot gets counted.”

Chow: "There seems to be a thought that your provisional ballot will only be counted if the election is close.”

Eck: “That’s absolutely not true. State law doesn’t allow us to open your provisional ballot until 10 days after the election, so your ballot will be held in a secure locked location; it’s actually behind a double locking door. Your board of elections is going to go through every single ballot and they’re going to go through it meticulously to see if you’re an eligible and registered voter. And if you are, then the board of elections will vote in an open public meeting and they’ll determine which ones are supposed to be counted and which ones weren’t. The majority end up being counted.”

Chow: “What can I do if I feel like I’m seeing voter intimidation?”

Eck: “If you see anything at your polling place that makes you uncomfortable, makes you question something, makes you think that maybe something’s not right, you should let the polling place manager know. You should also call your local board of elections and the people in the secretary of state’s office. We have people down in our elections division manning the phones; they’re ready to hear your concerns as well. And if there’s something that needs to be handled,we will certainly take care of that.”

Chow: “How much postage is required to send my absentee ballot back to my county board of elections?”

Eck: “Your board of elections should put a piece of paper in with your ballot when they mail it to you to let you know exactly what the postage is when you mail it back . So you should just follow their instructions and make sure your ballot gets back.”

Chow: “If for some reason that’s not in there, can they just call their local county board of elections?”

Eck: “If you have any questions about it call your county board of elections before you mail it back.”

Chow: “How do I vote for a write-in candidate?”

Eck: “If you want to vote for one of them all you need to do -- if you’re using an electronic voting machine --you select the write-in option and a keyboard will come up, you just type your name in. If  you’re given a paper ballot then you literally just write their name in and we’ll count the vote for that person.”

Chow: “But you’ve got to spell it right I’m guessing?”

Eck: “Your board goes to great lengths to count every vote that’s cast so if you have a minor spelling error ,as long as they can tell who it was that you wanted to vote.”

More on provisional voting:

What You Need to Know to Make Sure Your Vote Is Counted in Ohio
Eck explains provisional ballots

Josh Eck, with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, says provisional ballots are mostly used when a voter forgets ID or aren’t in the book as registered voters.

He dispelled the notion that provisional ballots are only counted if the race is close.

“Your board of elections is going to go through every single ballot and they’re going to go through it meticulously to see if you’re an eligible and registered voter. And if you are then the board of elections will vote in an open public meeting and they’ll determine which ones are supposed to be counted and which ones weren’t,” Eck said.

If a voter used a provisional ballot because they didn’t have their ID, Eck says they have seven days to verify and take ID to their county board of elections.

More than 208,000 provisional ballots were cast in 2012 -- just over 83 percent were counted.

The American Civil Liberties Union went to court to successfully challenge the secretary of state's purging of voters who had not cast ballots in a series of elections. Here's advice from the ACLU on how to vote if you've been purged:


  • Can I still vote in the 2016 presidential election? Yes, voters who were purged because they were inactive may cast a provisional ballot at their polling place. If you have not moved, or have only moved within the county you were registered, your vote will in most cases count.
  • Can I vote early if I have been illegally purged? Yes, you can vote early in-person with a provisional ballot.
  • Can I vote if I have moved since I last voted? It depends. If you moved outside of the county you were registered to vote, you should have registered in that county, and you may not be qualified to vote. If you have not moved or only moved within the county, you can cast a provisional ballot and it may be counted.
  • Do I need to do anything after I’ve cast my provisional ballot to make sure it counts? No, you are not required to provide any additional proof if you’ve been illegally purged—your vote should be counted. You can call your local Board of Elections after the election to inquire about the status of your provisional ballot.
  • How will I know if I’ve been illegally purged? You can check your voter registration status at www.MyOhioVote.com. As part of the court’s order, the Secretary of State and Boards of Elections must have information on their websites informing voters that if they have been illegally purged that they may be able to cast a provisional ballot and have it counted. There will also be information online and available by telephone to help you determine where your correct polling place is located.
  • The poll worker told me that they cannot find me in the poll books and said I am not a registered voter. What should I do? Calmly, but firmly insist that you are entitled to a provisional ballot. If the poll worker is still unwilling to give you a provisional ballot, ask to speak to their supervisor or someone at the Board of Elections offices. Do not leave your polling place without casting a provisional ballot.
  • Do I still need to provide identification? Yes, all voters must provide some form of approved ID. Voters who lack necessary ID must cast a provisional ballot anyway, but it is important that you follow up with the Board of Elections afterwards to ensure they have the information they need to count your ballot. A list of approved IDs is available at www.acluohio.org/vote.