Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Vote by mail, starting today

The election starts today. At the Board of Elections office at East 30th and Euclid, the first of 24 voting days between now and Nov. 6 is kicking off with rah-rah ballot hype.

State Sen. Nina Turner held a sleepover outside the elections office so that she could be the first to vote at 8 a.m. sharp. The rally attracted other Democratic politicians, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. Supporters of the Cleveland school levy are marching to the board of elections and casting votes starting at 12:30 p.m.  U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge sent out a press release saying she's voting there at 1 p.m.

Everyone who's working to get out the vote is trying to get it out fast, to bank votes now, so we don't see long lines at the polls on Nov. 6.

Which leads to some good, simple advice about how to make sure you get to vote:

Vote by mail.  

Send in the application for a mail-in ballot.

When the ballot comes, vote at home.  Put it in the mail by Nov. 5 at the latest.  No lines, no waiting.

That's the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections' advice. "The ballot is packed with 3 pages of issues and candidates," warns its recent media advisory. "Voters who cast ballots by mail have extra time to study [them]."

All the hype and controversy about how we're voting this fall, all those claims of "voter suppression," focus on a different way to cast a ballot: in-person early voting at the Board of Elections office in each county.  We have 23 weekdays when we can do that too -- basically every weekday from now to Nov. 2 (except Columbus Day, next Monday). They'll be open until 9 p.m. Oct. 9, and until 7 p.m. Oct. 22-26 and Oct. 29-Nov. 1.

Democrats also want us to be able to vote early and in person on Nov. 3-5, the weekend and Monday before Election Day.  A federal appeals court is going to decide that. (Update, 10/5: It decided -- we can vote at the elections office Nov. 3-5.)

But why do that when you can vote by mail?

You probably already got an application for a ballot sent to you by the Secretary of State, or you will soon. You can also click here for it if you live in Cuyahoga County, or click here if you're anywhere else in Ohio. Just be sure to fill out your application, and then your ballot envelope, carefully.

If you're not registered to vote, register by next Tuesday, Oct. 9.  Or, get down to the Board of Elections this week or next Tuesday.  This is the "golden week" -- as election nerds call it -- when you can register and vote at the same time.

If you moved recently, you can change your address online until next Tuesday.  If you want to check whether your registration in Cuyahoga County is up-to-date, click here.

Four years ago, when Cleveland was recovering from all sorts of screw-ups in how we voted, I wrote a long list of advice for voters on how to protect your vote.  Most of the advice still applies, though Cuyahoga County's elections office is in much better shape today.

This time, my advice is simple.  If you're at all worried about having enough time to vote on Nov. 6, if a line at the polls would screw up your day -- then vote by mail.

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