Board of Elections Director Linda Stutz looks over the new voting machine in the board office recently. Voters will see new requirements at the polls during next month’s election.
Board of Elections Director Linda Stutz looks over the new voting machine in the board office recently. Voters will see new requirements at the polls during next month’s election.
By KAY L. LOUTH

Times Bulletin Correspondent

info@timesbulletin.com

VAN WERT COUNTY - When Ohio voters go to the polls next month, they will be required to present identification.

An offshoot of election problems that plagued Ohio in 2004, the new requirement seeks to reduce voter fraud.  "This is the result of the election of 2004, because so many registrations in larger cities were questionable," said Van Wert County Board of Elections Director Linda Stutz.

Stutz said the new requirement is a good idea for larger counties with high voting constituencies. But for Van Wert, Stutz isn't quite so sure of the new requirement's usefulness. "I don't know that it's necessary (in Van Wert) because everyone here knows everyone," she said, "but you can't just break out the big counties." 

Consequently, Stutz explained, Van Wert voters will be asked to present one of several pieces of identifying material before casting their ballot. Identification options include a current and valid photo identification, a military identification that shows the voter's name and current address, or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter's name and current address.

Stutz also explained that a voter not in possession of these forms of ID on election day can still cast a provisional ballot after providing the last four digits of their social security number as proof of identity. Voters who don't have a social security number can sign an affirmation, swearing to his or her identity under penalty of election falsification.

Casting a provisional ballot requires more effort on the part of the voter, who has 10 days after voting to bring an acceptable form of ID to the Board of Elections to verify their identity.

The new law went into effect in June and the new requirement got its first workout in the August special elections. Reportedly, the new requirements caused only superficial problems and did not seem to deter voters from voting. "Of all the counties, only one or two had problems," Stutz said, adding that one voter became upset at the requirement and another voter failed to bring her ID and simply told the polling officials she would run home and get her ID.

The new requirement will make a lot of extra work for poll workers and also for the Board of Elections. First, poll workers will have a note in the signature book if a voter doesn't provide an ID. Second, a lot more provisional ballots will be cast and those ballots have to be verified on election night. Voters also should be cautious if they are casting provisional ballots and ensure they are at the correct polling site.

Provisional votes cast by voters at a polling place other than their own will not be counted.

The last day to register to vote is Oct. 10. Ohio law now provides that voters can cast ballots by mail through absentee ballots. Voters must request an absentee ballot directly from the Board of Elections.

Voters can request an absentee ballot from the Secretary of State's website or from the local BOE. The forms must physically arrive at the Board of Elections no later than noon on Saturday, Nov. 4.