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How to vote in Ohio's special primary election May 2 — or check if you need to vote at all

the hamilton county board of elections building
Tana Weingartner
The Hamilton County Board of Elections building in Norwood in August 2020.

Election officials are predicting a low turnout for Ohio's special primary election on Tuesday, May 2. Only a few communities have issues on the ballot and others won't need to vote at all.

Hamilton County Board of Elections Director Sherry Poland says often times, the biggest issue is people showing up expecting to vote, only to find an empty polling place.

"Those voters will show up to their polling place expecting there to be an election, and so we do anticipate some calls about that on Election Day from voters just wondering why their polling place is not open," she says.

Even so, she expects voter turnout for areas that do have something on the ballot to be relatively low, somewhere between 10-15% in Hamilton County.

Warren County Board of Elections Director Brian Sleeth predicts the same for his county.

"We have about 29,000 registered voters and I only have 500 votes as of right now," he shares. "In-person voting, we've only had 80 people show up to vote in the last three-and-a-half weeks."

However, in places with critical school levies on the ballot — which include Hamilton, Warren and Butler counties — voter turnout could be higher.

RELATED: Several SW Ohio schools are counting on voters to pass levies in May. Here's what to know

"Forest Hills local school district as well as Loveland school district and Northwest local — we think those areas might see a slightly higher turnout," Poland says.

This election will be the first where Ohio's new voter laws will be in effect. Those changes include new rules around acceptable voter ID, drop boxes and deadlines, among other changes.

Here's everything you need to know to vote (or not).

What's changed?

Ohio voters need to familiarize themselves with the changes in House Bill 458, which Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law in January — especially if they plan to vote in the November general election.

Here's what's different:

  • Voters will have to use an unexpired photo ID to vote, such as an Ohio driver's license, Ohio-issued state ID card (which will be provided at no cost at Bureau of Motor Vehicle offices), a state or federal military photo ID, or a passport. Bank statements or utility bills will no longer suffice as proof of identity.
  • Drop boxes for absentee ballots will be limited to one location per county and may only be used during business hours during early voting.
  • Absentee ballots must be requested a full week before Election Day.
  • No more Monday-before-Election-Day as an early in-person voting day at boards of elections.
  • Mailed-in absentee ballots must be received by boards of elections four days after the election, instead of the previous 10 days. This is an especially important change for military and overseas voters.  

RELATED: Why you need to get familiar with Ohio's new voter ID law now

How do I know if my area has a ballot?

Before you head out the door, be sure to check you even have something to vote on. You do this by entering certain information (like your address or birth date) into your county's board of elections site.

Am I registered to vote?

The deadline to register to vote in this special primary was April 3. You can check to see if you are registered to vote by clicking on the following link of the county where you live:

If you are not registered, you can sign up here through the Ohio Secretary of State's website. Though you will not be able to vote in this election, you'll be ahead of the game for the Nov. 5, 2024 general election.

RELATED: Ohio GOP legislators fast-track election law changes, despite opposition

Where do I vote?

To find your polling place, click the link for the county you live in below:

How do I vote absentee?

The deadline to request an absentee ballot was new for this year — a full week before Election Day — so unfortunately it's too late, and you must now vote in person.

However, if you have already requested and received your absentee ballot, note that drop boxes for absentee ballots will be limited to one location per county and may only be used during business hours during early voting.

If you are mailing your ballot, it must be received by boards of elections no later than four days after the election, instead of the previous 10 days.

Those voting absentee don't have to provide photo ID, but must provide the last four digits of their Social Security Number when submitting their ballots. Members of certain religious communities can also provide that information in lieu of a driver's license if they sign an affidavit stating their religious beliefs prohibit them from appearing in photographs.

Zack Carreon is Education reporter for WVXU, covering local school districts and higher education in the Tri-State area.
Jennifer Merritt brings 20 years of "tra-digital" journalism experience to WVXU.