COLUMBUS (WCMH) – With the election a little more than one week away, thousands of people in Franklin County are turning out to cast their votes early.
On Saturday, October 29, the Franklin County Board of Elections on Morse Road opens at 8am, allowing people to vote early on a weekend for the first time this season.
Voting early is a strategy that can save you time standing in line, but breaking the rules could slow you down.
At the early voting location and at polling places on Election Day, there is a line painted on the ground, marking a 100-foot radius around the entrance where no campaigning is allowed. That includes wearing shirts that support a candidate.
“They’re going to be asked to either take off the campaign shirt or campaign hat or asked to cover it up with a coat or a sweater or something like that,” said David Payne, deputy director of the Franklin County Board of Elections.
As of Friday night, 34,645 people had voted early in-person at the Board of Elections in Franklin County. That’s more than at the same point in 2012, even without “Golden Week.”
But absentee ballots are lagging behind four years ago, with close to 185,000 requested as of Friday night.
Jacqueline Epps of Columbus said she saw “cars coming and going” all day long at the early voting center. She came out to vote on Thursday and said she has voted early in the past.
“I wanted to not be in the lines and I wanted my vote to be already in and just sit back and relax [on Election Day],” Epps said.
Payne described early voting as the board of elections’ “Super Bowl.”
“We get them in and get them out and they can go on with their lives,” Payne said. “We’re excited about the opportunity of having people come in and vote.”
Rob Smith of Worthington said he always votes early.
“Get it out of the way and you don’t have to worry about getting up at six in the morning and standing in line for two hours,” Smith said.
For him and others, voting early is a way to forget about the election well before it’s over.
“Like no other,” Smith said. “I’ve never seen the animosity that’s going on now and it’s really a shame, because there’s a lot of issues that need to be discussed and it seems like nobody wants to talk about those. So hopefully this will be the last one of these that we have that are like this.”
Statewide, as of Friday, October 21, 153,315 people had voted early in-person and more than one million absentee ballots had been requested by mail, according to numbers from the Ohio Secretary of State released on Monday, October 24.
The Franklin County Board of Elections is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 29 and 1pm to 5pm on Sunday, October 30. The hours will be extended from 8am to 7pm during the week of October 31 to November 4.
According to Payne, the county needs 4,500 poll workers on Election Day to man 387 polling locations. Anyone who wants to be a polling official can call (614) 525-3100 and will go through two to four hours of training. Payne said the board tries to get approximately equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats to serve as polling officials.