Taking time out for voter education


LET'S address some of the rumors and controversies flooding the airwaves and e-mails about the Nov. 4 presidential election.

The Lucas County Board of Elections and the Ohio secretary of state's Web sites provide vital information, and because my purpose today is to educate and to dispel misinformation, some details here come from those sites.

By the way, the county Internet address is www.lucascountyoh.gov/BOE, and the secretary of state's address is www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS.

Register to vote: If you are not registered, there is still time to do so to vote in Ohio in the general election. You have until Monday, Oct. 6, exactly nine days from today. Contact your county board of elections for more information.

To register, you must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 on or before the election.

In Ohio, you must be a resident at least 30 days before the election. So if you just moved into the Buckeye State and want to vote in November, register by next Saturday, Oct. 4.

To vote, a person must not be incarcerated for a felony in any state; must not have been declared incompetent to vote, and must not have been permanently disenfranchised for violations of election laws.

To learn whether you are a registered voter, visit the secretary of state's Web site, go to voter registration, then follow the prompts.

Absentee/early voting: To vote absentee prior to the election and in the privacy of your home, you must complete the application process asking for an absentee ballot to be mailed to you.

After you return the information to the board of elections, the board will mail a ballot to you. When you have marked your preferences, mail the ballot back to the elections board.

In the event you receive an absentee ballot and decide not to fill it out because you want to go to your poll to vote on Election Day, it will be noted at the poll site that you were sent an absentee ballot. You can still vote, but it will have to be by provisional ballot. This is to avoid sinister attempts by anyone trying to vote twice.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4: Because erroneous information has been distributed in African-American communities in the past to try to persuade black voters - who traditionally vote Democratic - from going to the polls on Election Day, so you know, that day is only Nov. 4.

For those who do not vote an absentee or early ballot - Linda Howe, director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, points out that they're the same thing - the only other time they can vote in this presidential election is Nov. 4 between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.

So, unless election authorities have disqualified you from voting for some of the reasons mentioned above, it does not matter whether you have a legal or credit issue; owe parking, speeding, or other traffic tickets; owe back taxes, or child support; did not attend your child's parent-teacher conference, or haven't spoken to your mother since the last election. No one can keep you from voting for these reasons.

What not to wear: This has nothing to do with the TV program of the same name. However, know that it is illegal to wear clothing, accessories, or paraphernalia displaying the image or words of a preferred candidate or issue within 100 feet of a poll, Ms. Howe said.

If you do, poll workers can legally ask you to cover or remove the garment or item.

Do not think wearing a jacket to cover such a T-shirt will cause poll workers to do you a favor and make an exception. It will not.

Legally, you could be asked to go home to change clothes.

Anyone sent home to change can return to the poll to vote. Yet also be aware that your preferred candidates' opponents want those sent home to become disgruntled and not go back to vote. Don't give anyone that pleasure.

So, as an e-mail in my mail box on Wednesday declared: "Please, just don't wear Obama gear of any sort to the polls!!"

Leave your campaign buttons, T-shirts, caps, etc. in the car or at home.

Voter Identification: Some say only identification containing voters' photographs will be accepted. That may be true in some other states - Georgia, for example - but it is not true in Ohio.

Ohio voters have options. In addition to ID with a photo - such as driver's license, state ID card, government identification - that must display the name and address, a voter can show a military ID, bank statement, utility bill, or paycheck. Additionally, they can show a government check or other government document.

Early Voting: If you intend to vote early in Lucas County, don't go to the board of elections at One Government Center. The early voting site for this election is at the EMS Training Center at 2127 Jefferson Ave.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 30, three days from now, citizens can vote early there on these days and during these hours:

• Monday through Friday,

8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Monday, Oct. 6, 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

• Saturday, Oct. 25, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

• Sunday, Oct. 26, 1 to 5 p.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 1, 8 a.m. to

4:30 p.m.

• Sunday, Nov. 2, 1 to 5 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 3, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Though most think of early voting as just that, early voting, on the county board's Web site is labeled Lucas County IN-PERSON Absentee Voting.

As Ms. Howe said, it is still absentee voting, and a voter can vote via paper ballot or machine. If one votes early, take ID; that rule still applies.

If you have problems, describe the issue briefly to me in an e-mail.