The Richland County Board of Elections was busy Tuesday morning as early voters cast their ballots. (Photo: Jason J. Molyet/News Journal)
MANSFIELD – We’ve made it. Today is Election Day.
About 45% of Richland County’s 82,764 registered voters have already cast a ballot or mailed one.
If you haven’t voted, polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Unsure of your polling place? Call the Richland County Board of Elections, 419-774-5530 or search online.
Also, don’t forget your mask, though not one that indicates who you’re voting for.
In addition to a presidential election, voters in Richland County will choose their county judges for juvenile and probate court and decide who will represent them in Columbus and the nation’s capital.
Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario, who’s held Ohio’s 2nd House District seat since 2012, is term-limited from running again and is instead seeking election to the 22nd District of the Ohio Senate, which encompasses Ashland, Medina, Richland and part of Holmes County.
His Democratic opponent, Ryan Hunger, of Lafayette Township in Medina County, replaced Steve Johnson, of Ashland, who withdrew from the race for medical reasons and later died.
Seeking to replace Romanchuk at the statehouse are Marilyn John and Sam Grady. John was mayor of Shelby before becoming county commissioner in 2015 and is chair of the county’s Republican Party.
Grady, a political newcomer, has conversely displayed no interest in connecting with local Democratic party members and has charted his own path.
More: Sam Grady, Marilyn John face off for statehouse seat representing Richland County
More: Medina County resident enters Ohio Senate District 22 race against Romanchuk
Meanwhile, Richland County Probate Judge Phil Mayer will retire at the end of his term because state law prevents a common pleas judge from beginning a new term after age 70.
Competing for Mayer’s seat are Kirsten Pscholka-Gartner, who maintained a slim edge over Joe Jerger in this spring’s Democratic primary after absentee and provisional ballots were counted; and Kelly Lynn Badnell, a Republican.
Steve McKinley, who was appointed juvenile court judge last year to replace Judge Ron Spon, is running for reelection against Rollie Harper, a Democrat.
More: McKinley, Harper vying for juvenile court judge
More: Badnell, Pscholka-Gartner vying for probate court judge
Many incumbents who hold Richland County offices such as prosecutor, treasurer, commissioner and sheriff are running for reelection unopposed.
Another race of interest: Troy Balderson is seeking reelection in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District and faces Democrat Alaina Shearer and Libertarian John Stewart.
The district includes all of Delaware, Licking and Morrow counties with portions of Franklin, Marion, Muskingum and Richland counties.
Richland County also is included in Ohio’s 7th Congressional District. Bob Gibbs, a Republican, is seeking a sixth term in Congress and faces Libertarian Brandon Lape and Democrat Quentin Potter.
More: Candidates in 12th Congressional District spar over coronavirus, health care during debate
And, two Ohio Supreme Court seats are on the ballot. Incumbent justices Sharon Kennedy and Judi French, both Republicans, are running for reelection against Democrats John O’Donnell, a Cuyahoga common pleas judge, and former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.
Other important things to know:
How many people have voted early in Richland County?
By 2 p.m. Monday — the cutoff for early voting — 22,777 people had cast a ballot, about double the number this time four years ago.
Of 16,320 requested absentee ballots, 91% have been returned.
Of the outstanding ballots, 137 are Democratic, 198 are Republican and 1,091 are not affiliated with either party.
Paulette Hankins, director of the Richland County Board of Elections, said the surge in early voting can be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic and the hotly contested presidential race.
Hankins predicts a turnout of 75%, which would exceed the presidential election of 2016, when 68% of 82,032 registered voters cast ballots.
“We don’t expect the lines at the polls to be as long now, except at certain times of the day such as before work in the morning, at lunchtime, and after work,” Hankins added.
Have you still got your absentee ballot?
Don’t fret. While it’s too late to mail your ballot — it had to have been postmarked by Monday to count — you can drop it off at the Richland County Board of Elections, 1495 W. Longview Ave. Suite 101, by 7:30 p.m.
You cannot submit your absentee ballot at a polling place on Election Day.
When will results be reported?
After the polls close at 7:30 p.m., a count is taken of early and absentee ballots.
County boards must post those results by 8 p.m.
“We try to run updated results about every 15 to 20 minutes after the first set of results is released,” Hankins said.
Ahead of Election Day, election officials in Ohio can open absentee ballots, check the signature and other requirements and run them through a scanner — but not count them.
Some states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, don’t allow absentee ballots to be processed until Election Day.
The results tonight are, as in previous elections, unofficial.
Hankins said after votes are tabulated, the board will post the number of outstanding ballots and the number of provisional ballots that will be checked and verified.
For countywide or statewide races, The News Journal will look at the margin between the candidates’ vote totals and how many uncounted absentee ballots are outstanding before determining a winner. Some races could be too close to call.
Absentee ballots that haven’t been returned must have been postmarked by Monday and received by the Richland County Board of Elections by Nov. 10.
Hankins said the board will review provisional ballots Nov. 16 and reconvene two days later to certify official results.
Can I vote in person even if I requested a mail ballot?
Yes. If you choose to vote in person on Election Day, your precinct polling place will require you to cast a provisional ballot that will be counted later only if you did not submit the requested absentee ballot.
Can I change my vote if I voted early?
In Ohio, you’re stuck with your first choice once your ballot goes through the scanner. Ohio law prohibits people who voted early, a form of absentee voting for legal purposes, from casting a new vote.
According to the Ohio Revised Code:
“No absent voter may receive a replacement ballot after the voter’s absent voter’s ballot has been scanned or entered into automatic tabulating equipment.”
The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this report.
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