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2020 is looking to be a pivotal year in politics. But this year's elections are about much more than the race for the White House. And the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a complicating factor. WKSU, our colleagues at public radio stations across Ohio and the region and at NPR will bring you coverage of all the races from the national to the local level.

Election Questions? Ask Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters

photo of voting drop box
There are 88 drop boxes -- like this one in Summit County -- throughout Ohio for deposting absentee voting paperwork. Every county gets one, but a pending suit from the League of Women Voters could increase that number.

WKSU listeners have been sending in questions about voting this fall, from what happens to absentee ballot applications to the security of each county’s dropbox. We’re answering in our first "OH Really?" election-protection conversation. Jen Miller, director of the Ohio League of Women Voters, begins by discussing why some people are getting multiple absentee ballot applications.

Miller says it’s not uncommon to get multiple applications from different sources.  The key is just to ensure you fill it out correctly and – especially this year – send it back as soon as possible.  If a letter or application does arrive from the Board of Elections, it could be a notice that there’s an issue with your application and you need to re-apply.  A list of important dates for requesting ballots, changing voter information, and other deadlines is here.

Applications must be received at Boards of Election (not merely postmarked) by October 31 at noon.  However -- as with the entire process this year -- election officials are cautioning voters to complete paperwork as soon as possible to allow for postal delays, signature matching or other potential issues.

photo of Jen Miller
On Mondays, Jen Miller -- head of the Ohio League of Women Voters -- will answer your questions sent in to 'OH Really?'

Tracking ballots
“I have requested an absentee ballot that I plan to drop off at the Board of Elections. In my county, there is a way to track my ballot online and confirm it?” -- Wendy Lichtenwalter, Canton.

Answer: Yes.  The ballots can be tracked online here by scrolling down and selecting your county.

The drop off
“If my spouse and I are voting by absentee ballots, can I drop off both of our ballots at the Board of Elections, or do we each have to drop them off [separately]?” -- Wendy Van Ittersum, Hudson.

“Can you drop off several so only one car is involved?” -- Anonymous.

Answer: Miller says the number of ballots dropped off is not an issue.   But the person making the drop is limited to immediate family as outlined in the Ohio Revised Code 3509.05: spouses, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, siblings, half siblings, children, adopting parents, adopted children, stepparents, stepchildren, uncles, aunts, nephews or nieces.

Multiple envelopes?
“We sent in our absentee request. I put my request and my husband’s together in one envelope; is that okay? I’ve heard that if the return label doesn’t match the request, they aren’t valid.”  -- Miriam Ray, Tallmadge.

Answer: For ballot requests, you’re permitted to use the same envelope.  However, the actual ballots (which will be mailed out starting October 6) must be placed in individual envelopes.

Changing counties
“Can you submit a ballot at a different county's Board of Election drop off box?”— Kathy from Highland Heights

Answer: No. There is no provision for Boards of Elections to transport ballots from one county to another.  An interactive map of all 88 county dropboxes in Ohio is below.

Click on the ballot box icon in your county on the interactive Google map above to find the location of your ballot dropbox. When you do, you'll see a turn arrow at the top of the information column. When you click on this arrow, Google gives you the option to type in your address to get directions to the ballot box dropoff.

Postage and security
"Must a ballot have postage on it if I'm dropping it in the dropbox? Also, how safe is the dropbox? Is it guarded? Can the contents be damaged?" – Anonymous from Akron.

Answer: No postage is needed to use the dropbox.  Miller says every county can decide if they’d like to have a guard on-duty, but there will be 24-hour surveillance.  She adds, “the likelihood that the paper inside the dropbox is damaged by some other material is unlikely.  Also, a Republican and a Democrat will empty those dropboxes together.  Every aspect of our elections calls for bipartisan teams, whether it’s setting up the machines on Election Day or counting those ballots – this is another piece of that.”

Jen Miller will answer more of your election questions each Monday. If you have a question about voting, ask us!


Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.