[Note: This blog post has been adapted from the Cleveland VOTES 2024 Ohio Primary Election Guide.]
Cleveland VOTES believes in the importance of voting in every election cycle, including the primaries. Primary elections are valuable because it’s how we choose who is going to run for president in the General Election. And that’s not all -- we also sometimes choose local, state, and Congressional candidates through primaries, as well as vote on local issues.
Ohio will be having a primary election this year on March 19, and we want to help you get ready. Please note that the guide below is the most current election information that we have at the time of publication. For the latest voting and election updates, we recommend following Cleveland VOTES on social media and signing up for our newsletter.
Steps to take before you vote on March 19
1. Determine if you're eligible to vote.
Here are the current eligibility requirements for voting in an Ohio Election:
We realize that determining eligibility is more complicated if you’re a college student, so please refer to the current student voting guidelines on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
2. Check your voter registration status.
It’s always good to check your voter registration status (even if you’re sure you’re registered) in the months and weeks leading up to an election. Factors that can change your status include moving (even a few blocks), a name change, and/or citizenship status change. Ohio also regularly purges "inactive" people from the state voter rolls. You can check here to see if you’ve been purged. If so, you’ll need to re-register.
You can check your registration status at voterlookup.ohiosos.gov. You can register to vote online at olvr.ohiosos.gov or mail this form to your county board of elections. In-person registration is available at boards of elections, Bureau of Motor Vehicles locations, public libraries and several other spots. You'll need this information to register: name, address, date of birth, the last four digits of your Social Security number, and your Ohio driver's license or state ID number.
3. Decide when, where, and how you’ll vote.
Once you establish that you are registered to vote, you will also need to decide when, where and how you will vote. Ohio allows a certain amount of early voting days for each election, which gives you a little flexibility when it comes to choosing which day you will vote.
Also, if you want to vote by mail, you’ll need to request an absentee ballot. Either visit your local Board of Elections website (here is ours) and request one there, or follow these instructions for requesting a mail-in ballot. Completed absentee ballots can either be mailed or placed into the ballot drop box at your county board of elections (NOT your neighborhood polling place). You must place your completed absentee ballot in the drop box by 7:30 pm on Election Day. You can find your drop box location here.
If you’d prefer to vote in person early or on Election Day, make sure you know the location of your local Board of Elections or polling place. Also make note of the voting hours for the day you plan to vote. Not sure how you will get to your polling location? RideShare2Vote can give you a free ride. And sometimes there are local initiatives to get people to the polls (like Souls to the Polls) -- ask around!
And finally, decide what type of valid voter I.D. you will bring with you to the polls. Since the new Ohio voter ID law took effect in 2023, it’s extra important to choose a valid form of I.D. before you vote because it can impact whether you are allowed to vote or not. You can read more about the current voting ID requirements for our state here. We have also listed the acceptable forms of ID below.
If you do not have one of the forms of identification listed above, VoteRiders provides free voter ID assistance.
4. Research your ballot ahead of time so you can make informed decisions.
Any registered voter can vote in a Primary Election in the state of Ohio. But you must choose a political party when requesting your ballot via mail or when you show up to the polls to vote. For example, you don’t have the option of voting for a Democratic candidate for the presidential race and a Republican candidate in a judicial race. So do your research on the candidates ahead of time and decide which party ballot you will choose. If you don’t want to have to choose a political party for your ballot, you can request an Issues Only ballot (just know you won’t be able to vote for any candidates).
Here are the races that will be on ballot for the entire state of Ohio:
Please note that everyone’s ballots will be a little different. Fortunately, most local boards of elections websites have sample ballots that you can review ahead of time. You can also go to Ballotpedia and put your address into their Sample Ballot Lookup Tool to get a detailed breakdown of the offices and issues that will appear on your ballot.
5. Know your rights on voting day.
If you know that you have followed all of the above voting guidelines, but you find yourself being mistreated by a poll worker on Election Day, then call the Election Protection hotline. For example, if you get in line by 7:30pm and a poll worker tries to turn you away, call or text 866-OUR-VOTE and a trained volunteer can help you report and resolve it.