Voting & Elections FAQs

Vintage photo of two women holding voting signs from 1960s

Learn more about candidates and issues on the ballot:
Check out the League's on-line voters guide: Vote 411.org.

How do I register to vote?

  • The deadline to register to vote in the 2018 May Primary Election is April 9.
  • The deadline to register to vote in the 2018 November General Election is October 9.
  • Voter registration forms can be found in most public libraries and social service agencies in Ohio. You register to vote at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and through voter registration drives held by organizations in your area. 
  • You can also register to vote on line 
  • You can use all these sources to update your voter registration if you have changed your address. LWV Metro Columbus voter registration

When is election day? What are the hours?

  • In 2018, the Primary Election is Tuesday, May 8.
  • In 2018, the General Election is Tuesday, November 6.
  • There can also be a Special Election in your area, which would be held on Tuesday, August 7.
  • Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.  Anyone in line to vote at 7:30 is permitted to vote.

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Where do I vote?

  • On election day, you must vote at your polling place.  You may not vote at the Board of Elections or any other polling place.
  • You can look up your polling place on your county's Board of Elections website.

Am I registered?

What if I'm not showing up as registered, but I should be?

  • You can re-register to vote, if the voter registration deadline has not passed.
  • You can vote a provisional ballot during in-person early voting or on election day. If the Board of Elections finds that your registration was improperly removed from the rolls (because you are not dead and you have not moved outside the county where you registered), your provisional ballot will be counted.

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What ID do I need?

  • You do not need to show ID if you are doing in-person early voting at your Board of Elections, but you do need to provide your driver's license or state ID number or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • On election day, you will need:
  • An Ohio driver’s license or state ID card. The card must be current (not expired), but it can have an old address.
  • A U.S. Military ID with your name and photo (address not required).
  • A government ID with your name, current address, and photo.
  • An original or copy of one of the following current documents that shows your name and current address:  utility bill (including cell phone bill), bank statement, pay stub, college/university document, government check, or other government document. The document must have a date within one year of Election Day to be accepted as current.
  • If you do not have any of the above, you may use the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. You will have to vote a provisional ballot, but it will be counted so long as the number matches your voter registration.
  • NOT acceptable IDs: Many people in line voting
  • Driver's license or photo ID issued by a state other than Ohio.
  • Social Security card (last 4 digits only can be used on provisional or absentee ballot)
  • Birth certificate only
  • Passport
  • Any registration notice or document from the Board of Elections.

What do I do if I've moved and haven't updated my registration?

  • Always vote at the polling place for your new/current address.  
  • If you were registered in Ohio and moved, either within the county or to a different county, and if you re-registered at your new address by the deadline, you vote a regular ballot at your new precinct.
  • If you moved within your same voting location (e.g.,  from one apartment to another within the same building) and your ID is good, vote a regular ballot but fill out a change of address form.
  • If you moved to a new precinct but did not re-register at your new address, you will vote a provisional ballot at your new precinct.  You will also be given a change of address form, so you'll be all set for next time.
  • This includes students at Ohio colleges who are registered to vote in Ohio. If the student is registered but did not request an absentee ballot to vote at home, he or she can vote a provisional ballot at their new polling place and fill out a change of address form.  That address will now be their new address. 
  • Moved from a different state?  Because you must be registered to vote in Ohio 30 days prior to the election, you are out of luck for this election if you miss the registration deadline.

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What do I do if I've changed my name but haven't updated my registration? old voting machine ad

  • You can vote a regular ballot this time, but ONLY IF you bring in legal proof of your name change (such as a marriage license or court order), as well as another form of ID that shows your current address. The election official will help you fill out a change-of-name form, and you'll be all set for the next election.  If you don't bring legal documentation, you'll vote a provisional ballot.
  • If you also moved to a different address, see instructions above, under MOVED.  You will have to vote a provisional ballot, even if you moved within the same precinct, because you also changed your name.
  • Can 17-year-olds vote?
    In Ohio, 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the November election can register to vote. This allows them to do two cool things:
  1. Vote in a primary election on candidates only (not issues)
  2. Sign petitions to place issues on the ballot.

What if I'm in a domestic violence shelter and don't want people to be able to locate me?

The Safe at Home program, administered by the Ohio Secretary of State, is an address confidentiality program that helps victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, stalking, rape, and sexual battery shield their personal information from public record. Sign-up happens in person with a certified application assistant at the domestic violence shelter. Safe at Home program participants may register to vote with a confidential voter registration record, which will not be accessible to the public. They vote by mail-in absentee ballot.

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How can homeless people register and vote?

Helpful tips from the Northeast Coalition for the Homeless: Homeless people do have a right to vote, and can use the address of the shelter or where they receive mail to register. They will have to vote in the precinct closest to where they receive mail. So if the individual registers and receives mail at the shelter, they need to vote at the precinct near the shelter.

To vote on election day, there is an ID requirement. There may be confusion at the polls if a voter's state ID address does not match their registration address - however, this should not prevent someone from voting. You can use a state ID that has not expired, but the address does NOT have to be current or match the registration address. 

Because it may be difficult for homeless voters to access ID with an address, homeless voters are encouraged to vote early at the Board of Elections or by mail. There is no ID requirement for using either of these options, and only the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number are required.

How do I vote by mail-in absentee ballot?

  1. You do not need to provide a reason why you want to use a mail-in ballot, but you do have to request one.
  2. Sometimes, during major elections, all registered voters in Ohio will automatically be mailed a request-for-absentee ballot form.  However, in off-year elections, people wanting to vote absentee will need to request the absentee ballot themselves. You can call your county Board of Elections to have them mail you a request for an absentee ballot.  This call gets you the request form, not the ballot itself.  You can also access a form here. 
  3. The deadline for your request for an absentee ballot must be received by your county Board of Elections by noon on the Saturday before the election.  The Board will then mail you your ballot.
  4. Be careful to fill out the identifying information completely and follow all the instructions carefully.
  5. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by the day before the election.  They can also be dropped off at the Board of Elections on election day before 7:30 p.m.  They cannot be taken to a polling place.
  6. On election day, all poll books are marked for the people who requested an absentee ballot. If you requested an absentee ballot but did not receive it or did not return it, you may vote a provisional ballot at your polling place. It will be counted if the Board has not received your voted absentee ballot.
  7. You can track the progress of your absentee ballot on your county Board of Elections's webpage.

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When is Early In-Person Voting? early voting button

  • Early In-Person voting takes place at your county Board of Elections, starting the day after the voter registration deadline.
  • For the first three weeks, it is open from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the week before the election, it is open from 8:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.  In the last days before the election, it is open Saturday from 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Sunday from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m.; and Monday from 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

What is a Paper Ballot?

  • Anybody who doesn't want to vote on the machines can request a paper regular ballot instead. 
  • If the lines are too long, or if there is a problem with the machines, voters must be reminded that they can vote on paper ballots.
  • The difference between paper and provisional ballots is that paper ballots go directly into the secure box of voted ballots that get counted right away.  Provisional ballots are set aside until the voter's eligibility can be confirmed.

What is a Provisional Ballot?

  • Provisional ballots are paper ballots a person may be required to use to vote – instead of getting to vote on the machines – if there is some question about the voter's identity.
  • The main reasons you'd have to vote provisionally are:
  • you don't have proper ID,
  • you moved but haven't updated your address but you're in the right polling place for your new address, or
  • you requested an absentee ballot but decided to vote at your polling place instead.
  • A provisional ballot has all the candidates and issues that you would vote if you were using the machines.  There is also identification information that the voter MUST fill out completely and sign.
  • Once the Board of Elections processes the information provided, and it knows that you are registered and in the right polling place, the vote is counted.  This is one of the reasons why election results are not official until 10 days after an election.
  • If a provisional voter who has no ID and refuses to add the last 4 digits of their Social Security number to the required paperwork, has seven days to bring a good ID to the Board of Elections. Otherwise their provisional ballot can not be counted.

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What if I need help to vote?  handicapped voting entrance: photo credit Jackie Borchardt cleveland.com

  • Any voter may have help in voting, if they want it, from two poll workers of different parties or from a person of the voter's choice, except their employer or labor union officer. 
  • If the voter's assistant/s physically touch the screen or the paper (i.e., they don't just talk to the voter), then the assistant/s must sign a form saying that they helped to the best of their ability and that they will not disclose how the voter voted.
  • Voting machines have adaptations so voters with disabilities can vote a secret ballot. Voting machines also have an audible ballot option for people with visual impairments.  (The poll workers will explain how to use the machine).
  • Curbside voting allows a voter who is unable to access to polling location to vote a paper ballot from his or her vehicle.

What are the voting rights of people in jail/prison?

  • Anyone who is a resident of Ohio, not detained for a felony, and meets other eligibility requirements can vote. This includes registered voters detained Ohio's county jails and who have not yet been convicted of a felony.
  • Felons can vote in Ohio, if they are no longer in prison and are registered to vote.  An otherwise-qualified person convicted of a felony may register and vote while on probation or parole or after completing his or her prison sentence.

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Why don't I see all the candidates on my primary election ballot? 

  • Ohio has a closed primary system, which means that only the members of a party may vote in that party's primary election. You will likely not see all the candidates on a primary election ballot, because some of them are running for nomination from the other party.
  • In primary elections, members of each party nominate their top candidate to face the other party's top candidate. Because of that, each party wants only its own members to participate in the nomination process: X party doesn't want people from Z party participating in X's election; they fear that the Z voters will pick X party candidates more like to lose to the Z candidate.
  • In Ohio, voters must choose one party (or an issues-only) ballot in a primary election, but they may change their party affiliation at any/every primary election.

How do I declare or change my party affiliation?  elephant donkey vote button

  • Selecting/changing your party happens only at Primary Elections.
  • At a Primary, you are asked which kind of ballot you want: Republican, Democratic, or Issues Only. (Sometimes there are also third party ballots available.)  You may choose any ballot.
  • Choosing a party's ballot at the Primary makes you a member of that party.
  • No matter how you vote in the Primary election -- as a member of a specific party, issues only, or not at all -- you are free to vote for any candidates of any party in the General election.

IMPORTANT UPDATES: None today; check back later.