More than 2,000 Belmont County voters already have requested absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 general election, said William Shubat, county director of elections.
Absentee ballots won't even be mailed out to most Ohio residents until Oct. 2, but registered voters already should have received absentee ballot applications from the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. All the voter has to do is fill them out and return them to receive their absentee ballot.
Shubat, though, said he has learned many voters discarded the applications already mailed to them. They thought they were voter registration forms or didn't understand where the applications came from or why they were being solicited.
"All this is, the secretary of state (John Husted) gave every registered voter an application for their convenience," Shubat said. "It already has their name and address on it, and our name and address on the envelope. All they have to do is just put it in and send it back."
Once received and marked by the voter, the absentee ballot must be returned to the county board of elections office. If mailed, the envelope must be postmarked by Nov. 5. The ballots also can be hand-delivered to board offices and will be accepted up until 7:30 p.m. Election Day.
In-person absentee voting at board offices starts Oct. 2.
In 2008, a total of 14,142 people cast absentee ballots in Belmont County, according to Shubat. The county currently has 49,500 registered voters.
He touted the advantages of voting absentee.
"With this election, it's a wise thing to do," Shubat said. "You can have the ballot mailed to you at home, where you can sit in the privacy of your own home and digest the issues. And at 65 cents (the cost for postage to return the ballot), it's a lot cheaper than pulling your car out and going anywhere to vote."
Diane Gribble, director of elections in Jefferson County, said her county has thus far received 950 absentee ballot applications. Jefferson County has 48,748 registered voters.
Harrison County reports having 10,695 registered voters, and 120 have mailed the office absentee ballot applications. In Monroe County, there are about 10,000 registered voters, and employees there say they've received more than 200 absentee ballot requests thus far.
Ohio elections officials will start to mail absentee ballots to overseas and military voters on Sept. 22.
Any Ohio resident needing to register to vote in time for the Nov. 6 election must do so by Oct. 9, and local election offices will be open that day until 9 p.m.
Voters can request absentee ballot or voter registration applications by calling election offices in Belmont County at 740-526-0188; Jefferson County at 740-283-8522; Harrison County at 740-942-8866; or Monroe County at 740-472-0929.