BY AARON GILLESPIE

Times Bulletin Staff

Van Wert County Board of Elections Director Linda Stutz has released some information to help clear up the absentee ballot process for all voters for the upcoming November election.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said last week that she will not require counties to mail all voters absentee ballot applications ahead of the election due to a lack of sufficient funds to cover the cost of the mailings for all of Ohio's 88 counties. However, Stutz pointed out that absentee ballots will be available for anyone wishing one, and the process to vote absentee is still quite a simple one.

Stutz noted that absentee ballot applications are already available from the Board of Elections office at any time. A person wishing to vote absentee may either come in and fill out the application at the office, or request that one be sent to them through the mail. Once an application is dropped off, it goes on file until the ballots are ready. At that point the ballot is to be mailed out.

"We're hoping the ballots will be ready around the first of October, which is roughly 30 days prior to the election," said Stutz.

This fall's presidential election is actually the first in Ohio that voters can vote absentee either by mail or in person, before Election Day without having to provide a reason, such as living overseas. More than 500,000 voters - roughly 14 percent - used this "no fault" absentee option during the March primary.

Any voter casting an absentee ballot should either mail the completed ballot or bring it in person to the Board of Elections office, 118 E. Main St., Van Wert. The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

With much interest being generated by the upcoming presidential election, Stutz is predicting that many county voters will opt to vote absentee. Also contributing to the absentee upsurge is the changing of some voting locations in the county.

"I expect an all-time high because we will be consolidating polling locations," mentioned Stutz. The number of county voting locations is being reduced from 15 to 8 to cut costs incurred due to Brunner's insistence that votes be counted at each vote center instead of at the Board of Elections office.

According to Stutz, the final list of polling places for the Nov. 4 election will be finalized within the next couple of weeks. Afterward, each voter will receive a card in the mail explaining where his or her ballot can be cast on election day.