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Everyone should vote — then go to bed on election night, says voting advocate

From “When can I expect election results?” to “What is a poll worker?”, a panel of Valley experts answered your election questions Wednesday as part of the “Community Matters” series sponsored by Mahoning Matters.
Matters Panel 09242020
Clockwise from top left, Mahoning Matters Editor Mark Sweetwood, League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown President Kristen Olmi, YSU professor Paul Sracic, Academy for Urban Scholars in Youngstown Assistant Director Bryant Youngblood and Mahoning County Board of Elections Deputy Director Tom McCabe during Wednesday's Community Matters event "Voting in the Valley."
YOUNGSTOWN — When asked what Ohioans should do when the polls close at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3, Kristen Olmi said, “Go to bed."

The wait to learn who won the presidency is usually over on election night. But Olmi, the president of the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown, does not expect that to be the case this year. 

Many experts expect Election Night could look more like Election Week this year as the results are counted for heavily contested national contests.

From “When can I expect election results?” to “What is a poll worker?”, Olmi and others answered your election questions Wednesday as part of the “Community Matters” series sponsored by Mahoning Matters. You can watch a replay of the discussion here.

Wednesday’s forum, “Voting in the Valley,” hosted virtually at Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium in partnership with Stambaugh and The Business Journal, was moderated by Mahoning Matters Editor Mark Sweetwood and also featured:

  • Tom McCabe, deputy director, Mahoning County Board of Elections;
  • Paul Sracic, YSU professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations and the Rigelhaupt Pre-Law Center;
  • Bryant Youngblood, assistant director for the Academy for Urban Scholars in Youngstown.

With only weeks until Election Day, Olmi outlined the dates every Ohio voter should know:

  • Oct 5: The deadline for voter registration;
  • Oct. 6: Absentee and in-person early voting starts;
  • Nov. 2: The deadline for absentee ballot postmark;
  • Nov. 3: Election Day.

Registering to vote is easier than ever. Ohio allows voters to register online. You can also register at your county board of elections and many local government agencies. If you’re not sure if you’re registered to vote or want to be sure your registration has not been purged from voter rolls, you can check online. 

Practices like purging of voter rolls are among the reasons young people are feeling disengaged from the voting process, Youngblood said. 

At its historical peak, the highest voter turnout was 66 percent of eligible voters, Sracic said. Many point fingers at young Americans. 

As the youngest panelist, Youngblood explained his peers lack trust in the electoral process due to obstacles that disenfranchise many, especially people of color. 

"A lot of people around my age group are struggling to trust the overall system when it comes to voting," Youngblood said, though he urged his peers to vote and to educate themselves before heading to the polls. 

One young voter, a Mahoning Matters reader who grew up in Mahoning County but is currently in college in Pittsburgh, asked where they should register to vote. 

Ohio law is flexible when it comes to student voters, Olmi said. 

“Take into consideration where you’re going to be the month of October and for the election,” she said. 

Panelists agreed those planning to vote absentee should do so early. They also shut down rumors of election fraud.

At the Mahoning County Board of Elections, “Every year, we might refer one or two cases to the prosecutor’s office,” McCabe said.

Participants agreed on their trust in the security of the state’s voting process. 

"We have been in the top 10 states for the way we administer an election in terms of checks and balances,” Olmi said. “Ohio does a pretty good job.”

To further assure voters, Sracic reminded the group that even a contested election is nothing new. 

He discussed the example of the 2000 election, in which results were contested in Florida, and the 1876 election, in which officials did not know which electors to count.

Given how close elections have been in recent years, the panelists countered the notion that individual votes don't matter.

“One vote could potentially decide a presidential election, and it would be yours,” McCabe said.

Mahoning Matters has compiled this information for voters:

  • How to register to vote: You can click here to register online. You can also download an application from the secretary of state's website, print it, and mail it to the board of elections.

  • When to register to vote: To vote in the Nov. 3 election, your application must be received by mail, or delivered to the board of elections office, or online no later than Oct. 5. Boards of elections are open Oct. 5 until 9 p.m.

  • Who can register to vote: U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old on or before the general election, and a resident of Ohio for at least 30 days before the election.

  • How can I check my voter registration? You can do so at the secretary of state's website. Documents needed to register online: Ohio driver’s license or state ID with number; name; date of birth; address; last four digits of your Social Security number.

  • How to request an absentee ballot: If you choose not to vote at a public polling location on Election Day, you can request a ballot in advance — called absentee voting. The Ohio secretary of state has mailed applications to every registered voter, which can be completed and returned, or voters can click here to print the form from the secretary of state's website.

Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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