Democracy & Civic Life

The conclusion of this most unusual general election is only a few days away. On Tuesday, November 3, people will make their way to polls, if they haven’t done so already, to cast their ballots. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, election officials have expanded voting options for those who are concerned with catching the virus. But these new voting regulations have caused some confusion for Ohio Valley voters, and the Ohio Valley ReSource asked what questions voters had. 

Here are answers to some last-minute questions about absentee ballots, drop boxes, and in-person voting. Answers are provided by personnel in Secretaries of State offices and previous reporting by the ReSource. 

 

Q If our absentee ballot is marked as received by a county clerk, does that mean it was accepted? If not, how do we know it was accepted? 

Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia have websites that voters can visit to see if their absentee ballot has been received. Remember that your absentee ballot has to be postmarked and has to arrive on specific dates to be counted. In Kentucky, Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and they must be received by November 6th. In Ohio, absentee ballots must be postmarked by November 2nd and they must be received by November 13th. In West Virginia, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received by county clerks by November 9th.

 

Q When are absentee ballots logged in? When will the votes be counted? 

All Secretaries of State in the region  are allowing county clerks to start processing absentee ballots once they are received. Processing includes voter verification and separating ballots into precinct boxes. Ballots will be counted once the polls close on November 3, but of course some mailed ballots will be arriving later, possibly affecting the final official tallies. It is important to note that Election Day itself is not the deadline for counting valid ballots.

 

Q Can I still vote in person if I requested a mail-in ballot but have not received or submitted it yet?  

This depends on what state you live in. 

In Ohio, those who request an absentee ballot but change their minds can still vote early in-person — no problem, just go vote. However, on Election Day, Nov. 3, if you have received an absentee ballot and want to vote in person you must cast a provisional ballot. That means election officials must verify the voter’s eligibility before the ballot is counted.

In West Virginia, a voter who received an absentee ballot can still vote in person if they go to their home precinct. You may have to vote provisionally to verify at canvassing that you didn’t already vote by mail. 

In Kentucky, if you apply for an absentee ballot, you are locked into voting that way unless you didn’t receive your absentee ballot. If you have received your ballot and don’t want to mail it, you can put it in a secured drop box. 

 

Q Are drop boxes located at the county clerk’s office?  

West Virginia does not have drop boxes, but residents concerned about postal delays can hand deliver their sealed absentee ballots to their county clerk. In Ohio, drop boxes are located at each of the 88-county board of election offices. In Kentucky, the number of drop boxes and where they are located varies by county. You can find your nearest Kentucky drop box here.

Alana Watson is covering the workplace, economic opportunity and infrastructure issues for the ReSource from partner station WKU Public Radio in Bowling Green, KY.