Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted says state is ready for start of early voting

Last three days before election still uncertain

By MARC KOVAC C-N Capital Bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- More than 922,000 Ohioans have submitted applications for absentee ballots as of the start of the state's early voting period, more than half the number of total absentee ballots cast during the entire 2008 presidential election.

And Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said his office and county elections boards are ready for in-person early voting, which began today.

"Ohio has seen the hottest fires, and we are the strongest steel," Husted told reporters during an afternoon press conference near the Statehouse Monday. "We are prepared for this election, and things will run very smoothly."

Early voting starts today across Ohio, whether through mail-in ballots or at in-person sites throughout the state. Husted earlier set hours for the latter generally at 8 a.m.-5 p.m. during the first three weeks of the month and 8 a.m.-7 p.m. during the final two weeks, although each county election board may have slightly different hours. Two exceptions include Oct. 9, the deadline to register to vote, when offices will be open from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., and on Nov. 2 from 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

Husted has not yet issued a directive on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day on Nov. 6. A federal judge has ordered him to open the early polls on those three days, a decision that Husted is appealing. He offered no timetable Monday for offering a directive, though a number of county boards have set their own hours for the final three days.

"We are talking with local boards of election," Husted said. "We are talking with the legal team to make sure that we appropriately comply with the court order. A directive will be forthcoming at some point in time communicating that to the local boards of elections..."

A total of 7.8 million Ohioans have registered to vote to date -- Husted said he expects that number to increase over the next week -- compared to 8.2 million during the last presidential election.

Hundreds of thousands of names have been removed from the rolls, including Ohioans who have died or moved out of state and those who were in the system more than once.

Husted declined to predict voter turnout for the general election.

"The local boards of elections are doing their job," Husted said. "Everything that we have asked them to do so far, they have complied with on time. Our voter roles are in the best shape that they've ever been. The expansive early absentee mailing has gone very well in terms of making sure that all voters have received an absentee ballot request. We're seeing great response to that...."

He added, "We can spread out the rush for voting over a longer period of time. That is going to reduce the chance that there will be long lines at the polls on Election Day."

Absentee ballot applications submitted to date for the Defiance six-county area, with military and overseas requests in parenthesis, include: Defiance 1,991 (41); Fulton 2,098 (27); Henry 1,161 (20); Paulding 916 (23); Putnam 1,765 (17); and Williams 1,724 (26).

Registration applications for absentee ballots also can be obtained at www.ohiosecretaryofstate.gov.

Contact information for the six-county area's boards of election include: Defiance County, 1300 W. Second St., Suite 103, Defiance 43512 (419-782-2906 or 419-782-8543); Fulton County, 135 Courthouse Plaza, Wauseon 43567 (419-335-6841); Henry County, 1827 Oakwood Ave., Napoleon, 43545 (419-592-7956); Paulding County, 105 E. Perry St., Paulding 45879 (419-399-8230); Putnam County, 336 E. Main St., Suite A, Ottawa 45875 (419-523-3343); Williams County, 228 S. Main St., Bryan 43506 (419-636-1854).

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