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Want change? Step one: vote

in Tom Katzenmeyer 3 min read

Are you registered to vote? Is your circle of friends and family registered to vote? Have you started making a voting plan?

These are questions I find myself asking everyone I come into contact with these days. It’s important.

Tom Katzenmeyer, president & CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

Tom Katzenmeyer, president & CEO of the Greater Columbus Arts Council

I never really thought of making a voting “plan” before. I mean, I got up, I went to the polls, I voted. The only planning happened beforehand when I read up on the candidates and their positions. But in this age of pandemic, it’s good to have a plan.

I am voting by absentee/mail-in ballot. I have already submitted my request, which I filled out online, printed and mailed in. I am tracking the progress using the board of elections tracking tool on my phone. Today I know that my request has been received, accepted and that my ballot will be mailed out on Tuesday, Oct. 6. I am prepared for the fact that I might not have my ballot in my hands until after Monday, Oct. 12 (which is a holiday) and that I will need to quickly fill it out and mail it back to ensure it arrives on time. Although technically my ballot only has to be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 2 and received no later than Friday, Nov. 13, getting it in the mail well before that date will give me peace of mind. I might actually drop it off in person at the Franklin County Board of Elections (which is located at 1700 Morse Rd).

There is a lot of confusing information out there about voting this year. The Franklin County Board of Elections and Secretary of State websites do a good job of providing online resources and concise instructions, but it can still be a bit overwhelming.

For this reason, I thought I would share a few planning highlights for voters in Franklin County, Ohio (rules change from state to state).

First: make sure that you are registered to vote. Assume nothing. It takes two minutes to look yourself up online. If you are not registered. Please register TODAY.

Second: Choose how you want to vote. You have three voting options.

Absentee aka mail-in voting—in Ohio you do not need a reason to request an absentee ballot. You must submit a request via mail. There are simple identification requirements. And, you must return your ballot by mail or in person to the Franklin County Board of Elections by Monday, Nov. 2. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you request an absentee/mail-in ballot and decide you want to vote in person, you will have to do so via a provisional ballot. I recommend you learn about provisional ballots before making the final decision. The benefit of voting with an absentee/mail-in ballot is you can avoid crowds during a pandemic.

In-person early voting—Ohio has early voting and it starts Tuesday, Oct. 6. Check the BOE site for specific hours. The early voting place is at 1700 Morse Rd. If you prefer to vote in person please consider early voting. This is a great way to space voters out over several weeks and again, keep lines and crowds in check during a pandemic.

In-person voting on Election Day—when you double check your registration (see above) you will also be checking on your polling station. This is where you go and vote on Tuesday, Nov.3. I know people who feel very strongly about voting on Election Day. Be prepared for lines. There have been reports in primaries of people waiting in line for hours. Hopefully that will not happen here, but plan for the worst and hope for the best.

One more note about voting. Ohio needs poll workers. Voting precincts must be fully staffed or they will be closed, which creates a barrier to voting. Many of the people who normally fill this role are retirees who are at greater risk from the pandemic. Poll workers report to work at 5:30 a.m. and do not leave until they are able to close the voting machines. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. but anyone in line at that time can still vote. It’s a long day and a big ask, but an important one. These poll worker FAQ’s have more info on Ohio’s COVID-19 safety procedures, the amount paid for the day, opportunities to get school credit and the Youth at the Booth program.

Voting is not the only tool for building the country we want to live in, but it is an important one.

— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.