Vote By Mail

Vote By Mail / Absentee

Before Election Day: Voting by absentee ballot

When does absentee voting begin and end?

Primary and general elections:

  • For uniformed services voters and overseas voters eligible to vote under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), the absent voters ballots must be ready 45 days before an election. For all other voters, absentee voting begins 35 days before the day of an election. Mail in absentee ballots must be requested by noon on the Saturday before the election.
  • If delivered in person to the board office, all absentee ballots must be received no later than the close of polls on Election Day. If postmarked before Election Day and mailed to the board office, absentee ballots must be received no later than the 10th day after the election.

Special elections:

  • Special elections are elections that are held on a day other than the day of a primary or general election. If the laws governing the special election make it impossible for the absent voter ballots to be printed by the timelines listed in the above section, then absentee voting for the special election begins as many days before the day of the election as reasonably possible. You may contact your county board of elections to learn if a special election is being held in your precinct and, if so, when absentee ballots will be available.

Once absentee ballots are available for voting, any eligible voter may receive and return an absentee ballot in person at the county board of elections office or, if a board of elections has designated another location as its absentee voting site, in person at that designated location, or by U.S. mail. 

Who is eligible to vote by absentee ballot?

  • Any qualified Ohio voter whose registration information is up to date may request and vote an absentee ballot without stating a reason.
  • Ohio law provides separate application processes for different classifications of absentee voters (i.e., uniformed services, overseas, and regular citizens). In all cases, absentee ballots must be applied for in writing. If you are properly registered to vote, you must submit your written request to the board of elections of the county in which your voting residence is located. Your request must contain certain information as described in the following sections and your signature. To avoid potential problems with your application, you are encouraged, but not required, to use an application form prescribed by the Ohio Secretary of State.
  • If you are not on active duty as a member of the U.S. armed services or other uniformed services, which includes Ohio's organized militia (the Ohio Air National Guard, Ohio Army National Guard, Ohio Naval Militia, and Ohio Military Reserve), or if you are a U.S. citizen not residing outside of the U.S., you are considered a "regular" absentee voter.

What is the application process for obtaining an absentee ballot?

 Regular Absentee Voters

If you are a regular absentee voter, you may use the application form prescribed by the Secretary of State (Form 11-A) to apply for your absentee ballot. If you choose not to use the prescribed form, your written application need not be in any particular format, but it must contain all of the following information:

  1. Your name;
  2. Your legal signature;
  3. The address at which you are registered to vote;
  4. Your date of birth;
  5. One of the following items showing proof of your identification:
  • Your Ohio driver's license number;
  • The last four digits of your Social Security number; or
  • A copy of your current and valid photo identification, military identification, or a current (within the last 12 months) utility bill (including cell phone bill), bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows your name and current address (Note: You cannot use a voter registration acknowledgement notice that the board of elections mailed to you as proof of identification.);
  1. A statement identifying the election for which you are requesting an absentee voter's ballot;
  2. A statement that you are a qualified elector;
  3. If the request is for a partisan primary election ballot, your political party affiliation; and
  4. If you want the ballot to be mailed, the address to which you want it mailed.

 Absentee Application Deadlines for Regular Absentee Voters

 To receive your absentee ballot:

  1. In person: After absentee ballots are available for voting you may request and vote your absentee ballot in person by going to your county board of elections office or designated voting location.
  2. By mail: Beginning January 1 or 90 days before the date of an election, whichever is earlier, you may mail your properly completed absentee ballot application bearing your original signature to the board of elections of the county in which your voting residence is located. The board must receive your request by noon of the third day before the election (usually a Saturday). However, you should submit your request as far in advance of the election as possible to ensure there is sufficient time for the board to mail you a ballot and for you to timely return that ballot.
  3. If you or your minor child is in the hospital on Election Day: Regardless of where you or your minor child is hospitalized, you must submit a properly completed and signed request to the board of elections of the county in which your voting residence is located by 3 p.m. on Election Day. To be eligible under this provision, you or your minor child must be confined in a hospital because of an accident or unforeseeable medical emergency. Your application must specify where, why, and when you or your minor child came to be hospitalized. If you or your minor child is hospitalized in the same county where you are registered to vote, two representatives of the board of elections can deliver the ballot to you, wait while you mark the ballot, and return your voted ballot to the board office. Additionally, you may include in your absentee ballot application a request that your county board of elections give your unmarked ballot to a designated relative – your spouse, father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, son, daughter, adopted parent, adopted child, stepparent, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew or niece – who shall deliver the ballot to you in the hospital and return your voted ballot to the board office.

 For your absentee ballot to be counted, it must be received as follows:

  1. If you are a regular absentee voter your ballot may be returned:
    By U.S. Mail: The return envelope containing your marked ballot must either be received by the board of elections prior to 7:30 p.m. on Election Day, or postmarked no later than the day before the election and received by the board of elections no later than 10 days after that election. (Note: Ohio's election law states that "postmarked" does not include a date marked by a postage evidence system, such as a postage meter. Therefore, the return envelope must bear a valid postage cancellation stamp affixed by the U.S. Postal Service.)
    In person, either by you or an eligible family member: Your marked ballot, which must be sealed in the completed and signed identification envelope provided with the ballot, must be delivered to the board of elections office no later than 7:30 p.m. on Election Day.
  2. If you are a UOCAVA voter your ballot envelope must be submitted for mailing not later than 12:01 a.m. on Election Day and received by your county board of elections not later than the 10 days after a special, primary or general election.
    (Note: No voted ballot may be returned to a board of elections by fax or e-mail. If a voted ballot is returned by fax or e-mail, it will not be accepted, processed, or counted.)

 Frequently Asked Questions: UOCAVA

Both federal and state laws govern absentee voting by uniformed services and overseas United States citizens. The Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) and the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act are federal laws enacted to protect the rights of United States citizens to vote in federal elections while they are serving in the uniformed services or residing overseas. The Ohio General Assembly has incorporated those federal protections into the Ohio Revised Code and has extended them to state and local elections.

Must uniformed services and overseas absentee voters be registered to vote?

Yes.

Who qualifies as an overseas voter?

A U.S. citizen living outside the U.S. is eligible to vote in the Ohio precinct in which the voter resided immediately before leaving the U.S. if the voter was, or could have been registered to vote in Ohio while residing there, or currently is eligible under Ohio law to vote in Ohio.

A U.S. citizen who was born outside the U.S. is deemed to have a voting residence in Ohio at the place in the Ohio precinct where the person's parent or guardian continuously resided for at least 30 days immediately before leaving the United States.

Who qualifies as a uniformed services voter?

If you are serving on active duty in the uniformed services (U.S. Armed Services, merchant marines, and the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States, the national guard and organized militia) and meet the requirements for voting at your Ohio voting residence, you may vote a uniformed services absentee ballot. Your spouse and dependents may vote a uniformed services absentee ballot if they left their Ohio voting residence to be with or near you.

The voting residence of a service member is the place in Ohio where the service member resided for at least 30 days immediately preceding the commencement of his or her service.