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Voting in Ohio: Everything You Need to Know

Flickr/Steven Depolo

Early voting is underway in Ohio, and, as it does every year, the state plays an outsize role in US electoral politics. With its 18 electoral college votes, it has a history of tipping the election to one party or the other.

How to Vote in Ohio:

Early voting goes from Oct. 12 to Nov. 7. Find out where you can vote early here. Or, any Ohio registered voter can apply for an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

“Early voting allows Ohioans more flexibility to guarantee they can have their voice heard and exercise their democratic right as citizens. When more people get out and make their voices heard our democracy is stronger,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a statement released to Global Citizen.  

On Election Day, Nov. 8, polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. You’re allowed to vote if you’re in line by 7:30 p.m. Find out where your polling station is here.

Bring a copy of accepted ID:
An unexpired Ohio driver’s license or ID
An unexpired photo ID issued by Ohio or the US government that includes your name and current address
A military ID
A current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or government check that includes your name and current address
Any government document that shows your name and address

Global Citizen Voting Hub

Registration deadline: October 11

How to register: Download and print the Ohio state voter registration form or call 1-877-767-6446 to request one by mail. Fill out the form and mail it in by October 11 (postmarked date).

Mail the registration form to your county board of elections or:

Secretary of State of Ohio
Elections Division
180 E. Broad Street – 15th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Why Voting in Ohio Matters

When it comes to voting for president, as Ohio votes so, too, does the nation. Usually, at least.

In the past 30 elections (since 1896), 28 of the tickets that won the state of Ohio went on to win the election. Since 1964, the vote in Ohio has been just 1.2% different than the national vote, on average. 

But this year is anything but a usual year for US politics.

“This may be the most important election of our lifetime. After the votes are counted, elected leaders will help decide the direction our country takes for generations to come. By voting, Ohioans can have a say in the direction our country takes; by staying home, their voices go unheard,” said Senator Brown.  

Like the rest of the nation, Ohio finds itself at a crossroads. Its pristine record of voting for the winning candidate is on the line.

Read More: Why Every Vote Matters: The Closest Elections in the History of the US

How are the candidates campaigning in Ohio?

Recent polls are virtually split on who will win Ohio. A Monmouth poll has Clinton two points ahead of Trump. Quinnipiac has Trump in the lead.

Although Barack Obama won Ohio in both 2008 and 2012, “Hillary Clinton’s position now looks stronger in Florida than in Ohio,” the Atlantic reported. Clinton has campaigned relatively little in Ohio — only making one stop in the state in the past month on the campaign trail.

Why is this? Clinton’s success in Florida and slippage in Ohio show a broader trend in US electoral politics.

The “Rust Belt” — those states in between the Midwest and the northeastern corridor, like Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana — are becoming progressively more conservative. The “Sun Belt” in the southwest is becoming more liberal, thanks in large part to a growing population of eligible Latino voters. 

The economy has played a large role in Ohio’s shift to the right. The state was was hit especially hard by the 2008 recession. Average income in the state dropped from over $55,000 in 2007 to $45,000 in 2012. One in six Ohioans live in poverty, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

“Most of [Trump’s] support from blue collar areas is coming from areas where people have lost jobs — the steel industry, the coal industry,” Howard Wilkinson, a reporter at Ohio’s WVXU, told NPR’s Steve Inskeep. “He’s picking up a whole lot of Democrats, who are anti-trade deals, and who respond to the message.” 

Read More: These Are the People Who Fought Like Hell for Your Right to Vote

Who’s Not Voting in Ohio?

For Ohio, this year’s election will most likely come down to who votes and who stays home. The state has instituted several laws in recent years that have suppressed the amount of eligible voters in Ohio.

One reason fewer voters will cast a ballot in Ohio is the controversial Supreme Court decision that voted down “Golden Week,”  a law that allowed voters to register and vote in the six days before the election.

Ohio has suffered in the past from long lines on Election Day that lowered voter participation. In 2004, almost 200,000 voters — many of whom were minorities and students — were unable to cast a ballot. Some people had to wait in line for up to 12 hours to vote. George W. Bush won the state by 120,000 votes, and the election.

Some people in the state have also been “unregistered” from voting. Secretary of State John Husted “purged” people who have voted in the past, but not in the past six years, from voting rolls. In 2015, 200,000 inactive voters were removed from voter registration lists through this process.

The Sixth Court of Appeals ruled against the removal of these inactive voters in September, but the decision could still be overruled by a higher court.

For many voters, online voting is a key to casting a ballot. But in Ohio, an online voting bill will not become law until 2017.

(For more on voter restrictions across the US, see this map from the Brennan Center.)

Read More: Why People in the United States Don't Vote

In a state that could again be decided by a matter of a hundred thousand votes, these regulations are especially important this year. And if the history of US presidential elections is any indication, the future of the country is dependent upon it.