The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

October 5, 2011

Early voting is under way in county

JEFFERSON —  Early voting got under way in Ashtabula County on Tuesday, exactly five weeks before the November election.

Duane S. Feher, board director, said the office made early ballots available at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and by 2 p.m. had handed out 17 of them. More significantly, it received 604 applications by mail.

“On average, we’re getting about 100 applications a day since last Thursday,” Feher said.

Feher said his staff was fulfilling those requests and the ballots should be in the mail today. He emphasized the need for voters to follow the instructions that come with the ballot. In a typical election, about 10 percent of the early ballots returned to the office are not sealed in the ballot envelope and/or the front of the envelope is not completed and signed. That creates extra work for the board, and it can also result in the ballot not being counted.

Early absentee voting was introduced in Ohio for the 2006 election, and about 5,000 Ashtabula County voters used it, Feher said. In 2008, the board received more than 10,000 absentee ballots.

House Bill 194, a Republican backed state law that restricts early-voting opportunities, was suspended late last week when a coalition of Democrats, voting-rights and labor groups submitted more than 300,000 signatures to put the law on the November 2012 ballot. The law is seen as a benefit to Democrats because, statewide, early voting is used by the elderly, minorities and needy, who tend to support Democrat candidates.

Feher said the board was ready to go with the early voting last week, regardless of the outcome of the final petition push.

“We’re ready to go. I think we’re in pretty good shape,” Feher said.

Deputy Director Carol Lovas said voters have until noon on Nov. 5 to mail their application for an absentee ballot. And the deadline for early voting in person is 4:30 p.m. Nov. 7. Ballots that are mailed must be postmarked by Nov. 7 to be accepted.

“If it gets stamped by the Post Office past the seventh of November, we can’t accept it,” she said.

Feher said the Internet is helping to reduce the number of questions the board receives regarding ballots, issues and candidates. The website, electionsonthe.net/ Ashtabula, provides information on absentee voting requirements, sample ballots and complete lists of candidates and issues by precinct. Applications for an absentee ballot are online at electionsonthe.net, as well.

Persons who want to cast an early ballot can do so at the Board of Elections office, 8 W. Walnut St., Jefferson, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feher said the office will also be open from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Nov. 5 only. The board’s phone number is 576-6915.

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