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County could see 75 percent turnout

With the general election less than a month away, if you are not registered to vote and you want to cast a ballot, you’d better get to the courthouse quick. Monday is the last day to register and vote in the 2008 election.

Registered voters can also vote by absentee ballot as a number of people were doing on Friday afternoon.

Among the people going in and out of the Lawrence County Board of Elections Office on the first floor of the Lawrence County Courthouse was Melinda Griffith, of Ironton, who was dropping off on absentee ballot for her husband, Frank.

He has a breathing condition that makes it hard for him to get around, but still wanted to vote in the 2008 election. Frank signed up to vote last year and wanted to get it done before the deadline. Melinda on the other hand has been voting since she was 18.

“My sister-in-law said, ‘OK, you’re 18, you’re going to get registered to vote,” Griffith said.

Her voting tradition has gone to her son, Matthew, who just turned 18 and registered to vote last month.

“I registered because I wanted to vote,” he said.

So far he hasn’t really decided who he is going to vote for or what party he is going to join.

“I haven’t chosen a political party yet,” he said. “I am thinking about voting for (Republican presidential candidate John) McCain. I’m going to vote how I feel on the issues.”

Of course, it’s a little confusing because his mother is a Republican and his father is a Democrat.

“I might just be a Democrat like my dad,” Matthew said.

Another person who was turning in and getting more paperwork at the Lawrence County Courthouse was Ray Bentley, who is a Democratic Central Committeeman from Coal Grove.

He was turning in absentee ballot requests for other people.

“I keep these,” he said, shuffling

the papers. “When someone wants one, they stop by the house and ask for them.”

Bentley has been on the Democratic Central Committee for 50 years.

“I don’t get too many people asking for them, maybe 20 or so,” he said. “It’s mainly older people or people who are going to be out of town on Election Day.”

Absentee voters

Cathy Overbeck, the director of the Lawrence County Board of Elections, said the office has seen a lot of people voting absentee this year.

“There are four people out there now and we just had six people in here,” she said. “It’s been hectic.”

And all anyone has to do is come in and fill out an application.

“You can vote on the spot,” she said. “On Monday, you can register and vote on the same day.”

And you don’t even have to give a reason.

“The word is out that it is no fault, you don’t have to give a reason at all,” Overbeck said. “It’s for people’s convenience.”

The application is simple and takes just a few minutes.

“To vote absentee, you don’t have to show us ID, but the information is required on the application and the ID envelope,” she said.

The board of elections office will be open until 9 p.m. on Monday.

“We always have extra office hours on deadline day,” she said.

Overbeck said she expects a large turnout, in part because it is a presidential election year and because there has been a lot of publicity around the two contenders, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

“I think this is going to be our biggest election for absentees yet,” she said. “It’s already more than 3,000.”

She said the State of Ohio is expecting an 80 percent turnout.

“We in Lawrence County, and (the board of elections) may be out of line on this, are expecting at least 75 percent,” she said. “There are 45,200 voters registered and the number keeps creeping up.”

Voting requirement

Ohio voter eligibility is pretty simple. A voter has to be a U.S. citizen, be over the age of 18 on or before Nov. 4 and have resided in Ohio at least 30 days before the election. A currently imprisoned felon cannot vote.

On Election Day, voters will need a picture ID (Ohio driver’s license, state ID card, government ID), a military identification that shows the voter’s name or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document that shoes the voter’s name and current address.

Voters who do not provide one of these documents will still be able to vote by provisional ballot.

Where to vote

If county voters are unsure of their polling place, they can call the Lawrence County Board of Elections at (740) 532-0444 or go to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office Web site (www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/elections/voterInformation/whereToVote.aspx). There, voters can type in their street address and get information on where to vote.

Provisional vote

A provisional ballot can be cast when a person doesn’t have proper identification.

A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place.

The content of a provisional ballot is no different from a regular ballot, but it is cast “provisionally” until election officials can verify the voter’s eligibility.

According to the Ohio Secretary of State’s Web site, “there are several scenarios in which a voter may cast a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot may be used on Election Day if a voter’s eligibility is in question, or before (or on) Election Day if a voter has recently changed his or her address or name and did not update his or her voter registration.

The following situations would require a voter to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day:

— Name does not appear on the official poll list for an election, or an election official asserts that you are not eligible to vote or is unable to determine eligibility;

— Unable or decline to provide the required proof of identity;

— Name appears on the poll list or signature book as having requested an absentee ballot;

— Name is marked on the poll list or signature book with a notation that registration mailings have been returned as undeliverable;

— A hearing on a challenge to your eligibility as an elector has been postponed until after Election Day;

— Signature, in the opinion of the precinct officers, does not match the signature on your registration form; or

— Eligibility to cast a ballot has been challenged by the precinct officers.

Before a provisional ballot is included in the official count of an election, the board of elections must confirm eligibility to cast the ballot, as well as the validity of the ballot cast.

For more information about voting in Ohio, go to www.sos.state.oh.us.