voting

MANSFIELD -- City and village council seats. School boards. Township trustees. Tax issues.

These are the kinds of important local decisions Richland County voters will make during this general election cycle, an annual effort that actually begins with the early voting period on Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Matt Finfgeld, director of the Richland County Board of Elections, said Friday his office anticipates overall voter turnout for the Nov. 2 election will be around 25 percent -- about 20,000 voters.

He said 4,000 to 5,000 of those ballots will be cast in early or absentee voting.

VOTER REGISTRATION

You can't participate in these local leadership decisions if you aren't registered to vote. And that deadline is Monday, Oct. 4.

There are a multitude of ways to register to vote, including online, according to Matt Finfgeld, Richland County Board of Elections director, whose office will stay open until 9 p.m. on Monday.

"The office is located at 1495 W. Longview Ave., Suite 101, in the Longview Center," Finfgeld said. "After 4 p.m, residents must use the entrance at the lower level back parking area at the southwest corner of the building."

In addition to registering online or at the elections board office, residents can register at any library branch, all city and and village hall offices, Bureau of Motor Vehicles Office, Department of Human Services, Richland County Courthouse (recorder or treasurer's offices) and all area high school offices.

In order to register, residents must be either a native U. S. citizen, or a naturalized citizen of the U.S.; a resident of Richland County and Ohio 30 days prior to an election; and a minimum of 18 years of age on or before the date of the general election on Nov. 2.

Registered voters who have moved or changed their name must notify the board office in writing or in person. Voters currently registered in Ohio may change their address online at VoteOhio.gov, but must do it by the Oct. 4 deadline.

EARLY VOTING

Early voting can be done either by mail or in person at the local Board of Elections office in the lower level classroom.

"The closest entrance is in the back of the Longview Center by the “Vote Here” sign and flag," Finfgeld said."If you enter through the front entrance, you must take the stairs or elevator down to the lower level."

Voters who have requested absentee ballots by mail will have their ballot mailed out starting on Oct. 5. Absentee applications to print to vote by mail are available by going online to: vote.richlandcountyoh.gov or by calling the office at 419-774-5530 to have a request form mailed to you.

Here are the early in-person voting hours at the Board of Elections office:

Tuesday, Oct. 5 through Friday, Oct. 8 -- 8 a.m.  to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 12 through Friday, Oct. 15 -- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Note: The office will not be open for voting on Monday, Oct. 11. It's closed for Columbus Day).

Monday, Oct. 18 through Friday, Oct. 22 -- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, Oct. 25 through Friday, Oct. 29 -- 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 30 -- 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 31 -- 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Monday, Nov. 1 -- 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

After 2 p.m. on Nov. 1, voters must vote at their polling place on Election Day, Nov. 2. Polls will open at 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 2 and close at 7:30 p.m.

Finfgeld said social distancing requirements may make lines seem longer than they actually are during early voting and at polling places on Election Day.

"We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety and health of our voters and our staff. Masks will be available for anyone who needs one. Sanitizer will be available for use upon entering and exiting the early voting room. An air purifier is installed in the early voting room, and the voting equipment will be sanitized after use," he said.

"Disposable styluses will be given to voters to sign their name on our electronic poll books and for use on the touchscreen voting unit. Screen guard barriers will separate the workers from the voters. We will be directing voters to enter the room through one door and exit through the other one to help with the traffic flow," Finfgeld said.

As a reminder, voters should not wear campaign apparel or engage in political discussions at the early voting site or at the polls on Election Day Finfgeld said.

Those wishing to view their ballot online, can visit voter view on the Board of Elections website at: https://richland.oh-vote.org/VoterView/RegistrantSearch.do and enter your first and last name and your date of birth. Click on the precinct number and a sample ballot will display.

For more information, call the local elections board office at 419-774-5530.

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City editor. 30-year plus journalist. Husband. Father of 3 grown sons and also a proud grandpa. Prior military journalist in U.S. Navy, Ohio Air National Guard. -- Favorite quote: "Where were you when the page was blank?"