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Government & Politics

First Days of Early Voting in Ohio Draw Big Crowds

Summit Co early voters 100720 cr SLT.jpg
Sarah Taylor
Voters line up under a tent outside the Summit County Board of Elections Early Voting Center on Wednesday, October 7, 2020.

Early voting is underway in Ohio, so voters who ordered ballots by mail will begin receiving those soon. But thousands of voters will go to their local boards of elections to cast ballots in person, starting Tuesday.

Columbus resident Brandy Seymour said she’s concerned about another lockdown like Ohio experienced in the March primary. And she said it’s so important that she was willing to stand in line for a little more than an hour at the Franklin County Board of Elections to make sure her vote is in. 

“I’m worried about people taking votes and throwing them away in the mail," she said. "I mean, think about it: How reliable is the postal service anyway? Even just mailing a Christmas card. You hear stories about, ‘Oh yeah, this Christmas card was mailed in 1920, and they just found it and mailed it.'"

Columbus resident Manny Tarver also didn't want to wait to cast his ballot in person. 

"I didn't want to wait until the last minute. I didn't want to do the mail-in ballots. So I just felt that I actually had to get out and go vote today," he said. 

Lines at county boards of elections around the state were forming before sunrise in many cases. Polls opened at 8 a.m., and by 10 a.m. many voters had waited an hour or more to get into this Franklin County Early Vote Center where they could cast their ballots. 

Jo Ingles
A voter checks in to vote at the Franklin County Early Vote Center in Columbus.

Aaron Sellers with the Franklin County Board of Elections said 150 machines had been placed inside the warehouse with plenty of distance so voters could cast their ballots safely. 

view inside the Franklin County Early Vote Center
Jo Ingles
Voting machines are spaced so voters can cast ballots safely while inside the Franklin County Early Vote Center.

Back in 2016, 550 people cast their ballots in the first hour-and-a-half on the first day early in-person voting was available. During that same period of time Tuesday, 2,486 had voted.

Inside the Delaware County Early Vote Center, 12:30 p.m.
Jo Ingles
Voters cast ballots at 12:30 p.m. inside the Delaware County Early Vote Center.

Just north of Columbus in suburban Delaware County, voters were also heading to the polls early. Board of Elections Director Karla Herron said 500 had voted in the first few hours of voting. And though she didn't know exactly how that compared with 2016, she said she knew there were many more voters in the earliest hours this time around. 

Rural areas saw crowds, too. In reliably conservative Tuscarawas County, south of Canton, voters were lined up around the county's board of elections. Some stood in line for more than an hour to cast their ballots when early voting began at 8 a.m.  

Tuscarawas County Early Voting Site
Drew Silverthorn
Voters make a long line early in the morning Tuesday at the Tuscarawas County Early Voting Site.

The number of Ohioans who want to cast ballots by mail has increased this year. Secretary of State Frank LaRose reported 2.1 million Ohioans had requested mail-in ballots before the early voting officially began. Many of those were sent out Monday. 

Ohio ballots prepared for mailing
Dan Konik
These Ohio ballots were waiting to be mailed Monday.

ballots prepared for mailing on October 5, 2020
Dan Konik
More ballots are waiting to be mailed.

But this year, many voters said they questioned the reliability of the United States Postal Service, especially given some of the changes that have been made recently. And President Donald Trump has tried to persuade his supporters to ditch the mail-in ballots and show up in person on Election Day instead. Some voters have elected to deposit their ballots in drop boxes at their county boards of elections.

Lake County drop box
Abigail Bottar
Voters also have the option to drop off their absentee ballots in drop boxes, such as this one in Lake County.

LaRose expects larger than usual crowds Nov. 3. He's instructed boards of elections to recruit 50% more poll workers than they usually have on that day. 
Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.