Mailbag: You’ve got questions about the election, we’ve got answers

A resident waits in line to vote at a polling place. Photo by Scott Olson | Getty Images.

The Erwin family in Southern Ohio came up with the corniest way to encourage voting this fall.

That’s a literal assessment. The family’s corn maze features a map of Ohio with the words “VOTE! 2020” etched into the design.

A presidential election corn maze is about the most Ohio thing I can think of. Speaking of elections and Ohio, let’s get to this week’s mailbag:

Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.

Why does Ohio not allow a U.S. passport to be used as voter identification? Seems strange to me.

@srobertson0726 on Twitter.

Answer: It has to do with voter verification, but Ohioans still have plenty of other ID options for Election Day.

This can seem a little counter-intuitive … a passport is secure enough to let you travel the world, but it can’t help in letting you cast a ballot for the local mayor’s election?

The issue at hand is passports do not list your address. An address is important for poll workers to confirm you are voting at the correct location, and thus voting on the correct races and issues based on where you live.

There are a number of documents a voter can provide on Election Day to prove not just their identity, but their address — examples include any utility bill, bank statement or government paper (from within the last 12 months) that lists their present address. 

Of course, the most common ID shown is a driver’s license. For some voters, their valid license doesn’t list a current address if they’ve moved since the last time it was renewed. In this case, a poll worker would double-check with the address on their voter registration file.

The difference? A driver’s license is issued by the state of Ohio. A passport isn’t.

By the way, normally the rule is that a driver’s license (or any other state identification card) presented as voter ID cannot be expired. The pandemic has changed this rule for the 2020 General Election.

Any such ID card that has expired between March 9 and Election Day on Nov. 3 will remain valid for use at the polling place.

You can see a full list of acceptable voter ID options on the Ohio Secretary of State website.

Are we able to track our ‘vote by mail’ ballots online? 

– @ShowMeGoodNews, on Twitter.

Answer: Yes!

All Ohioans who vote absentee by mail are indeed able to track their ballots online at voteohio.gov.

Voters must first apply to their county’s board of elections office to receive their absentee ballots. Once they have, voters can expect to receive their blank ballots in the mail sometime in early October.

After sending back their completed ballots, voters can check the status of their ballots at the above link. It will indicate to voters that the ballots have been received by the board of elections office.

Where are the early voting locations in Columbus?

– @DieHardDebH on Twitter.

Answer: This is a relevant question for all in Ohio, not just those in Columbus, so everyone should keep reading on.

This Q & A concerns early in-person voting. Each county has one such place where a voter can cast a ballot early in person: at the board of elections office. 

I’ve voted this way a few times over the years; as a reporter, I’m usually busy on Election Day, and I also don’t love waiting in long lines to vote.

Early voting begins on Oct. 6 and runs all the way through the day before Election Day. There are even opportunities for evening voting and weekend voting to fit your schedule. If you aren’t planning to vote by mail or drop box, it might be worth checking into this as an alternative to voting at a traditional polling place on Nov. 3.

You can view the full early voting schedule here. It is the same schedule for all of Ohio.

You can view an Ohio boards of elections office directory here.

Note: There is one exception to early voting taking place at the county board of elections office, and that’s in Lucas County. Early voting in Lucas County takes place at a separate site: the Ohio Means Jobs Building at 1301 Monroe St., Toledo. See here for more information.

Why isn’t the Ohio flag a rectangle? As a new Ohio transplant this is weird to me.

– @Laurelista on Twitter.

Answer: I’ve decided to answer this question in the form of this week’s History Thursday article, which you can find here.

Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.

Reading material:

Here are some other important and interesting Ohio Capital Journal articles you have missed:

COVID-19 lawsuit immunity won’t help economy, might increase spread, poll of economists says – What will be the effect of a recent bill signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine which gives businesses “broad immunity” from coronavirus infection lawsuits? Lawmakers and DeWine think one thing, but as reporter Marty Schladen reports, economists have a much different view.

Alleged Householder texts about nuclear bailout are MIA, House says – An affidavit from prosecutors reportedly showed a text from former Speaker of the House Larry Householder urging another lawmaker in 2019 to support House Bill 6. This bill is at the center of what prosecutors allege is the largest bribery scheme in Ohio political history. Who was that other lawmaker? Reporter Jake Zuckerman has tried to find out.

Republicans on Ohio Controlling Board reject prepaid postage for voters – Ohio voters will be on the hook for their own vote-by-mail postage this fall, I reported.

Two different surveys show that Ohio’s charities and nonprofits are in crisis – How are community organizations faring in 2020? Not well, Ohio Capital Journal contributor Kevin Williams wrote.

Note: This story has been updated to include details on the early voting site in Lucas County (Toledo). 

Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.