Early voters in Ohio will experience slight changes with in-person voting procedures due to House Bill 41, legislation that passed on March 20, 2019.
"We have done away with the ballot application and ID envelope," said Penny Brooks, deputy director at the Athens County Board of Elections.
House Bill 41 no longer requires voters to fill out a ballot application or ID envelope as part of voting procedures for early voting. Alternately, if early voters do not have a form of ID, they can present the last four digits of their Social Security number and do a ballot application. There are no changes in mail voting. The optical scanners that read the ballots still serve the same function.
“You can come into our office and bring your ID, and we match it up to a label on our signature list,” Brooks said. “This information is processed in a computer and a ballot is printed. Your votes are then scanned to finish the process and check for errors on the ballot and the voting intent.”
In the past, voters would have to spend time filling out a ballot application and ID envelope in addition to the previous steps. Lines at polling locations may have been longer because of the increased time to fill out the forms and process them.
"The process was longer and more cumbersome for people to fill out their application and ID envelope, and to wait in longer lines," Tammy Cline, deputy director at the Meigs County Board of Elections, said.
"I didn’t mind filling out the envelope and such, but it seemed unnecessary and added extra paperwork," David McNelly, Service and Support administrator at the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said.
Decisions to vote early may be affected by geographical location, but it usually is the realization the person may not reach their polling location on election day.
McNelly uses an electric wheelchair and can’t transfer. He drives his own van out of his wheelchair to get around.
“One year my van broke on Election Day, and I couldn’t find a way to get to my voting location. I live about 3 miles out in the country. I called everywhere and there wasn’t accessible transportation available on short notice. Since then, I always vote at least a week early,” said McNelly.
Aside from access issues for specific populations of Ohioans, it is unclear how many voters House Bill 41 truly affects. Election offices may have a better idea when the next county election occurs.
"It is hard to say if there has been an uptick in early voting because there has not been a county-wide election recently, only a special election — though many early voters are happy about the change," said Cline.