Election time may seem far off but it is closer than you think. Now is the time to start listening to the candidates and learning about the issues to best prepare for voting on Nov. 8. The Marietta/Washington County League of Women Voters would like to help the electorate of our area get ready to participate in one of the greatest privileges we have in America. That privilege is our right to vote. League members will be providing non-partisan voter information in this periodic column. More information for voters can be found at www.vote411.org which is a website provided by the National League of Women Voters.
Our United States government is a Constitutional-based federal republic with a strong democratic tradition. Thanks to our Founding Fathers, we operate under a constitution that sets forth a system of fundamental laws and principles. History encouraged our forefathers to frame a federal republic in which the central government is restricted and the states retain a degree of self-government. Most importantly, the Founding Fathers gave the ultimate power to the citizens who choose their governmental representatives by voting.
To be an eligible voter, you must meet the following criteria:
Be a citizen of the United States.
Be at least 18 years old.
Be a resident of Ohio at least 30 days before the election.
Be registered to vote at least thirty days before the election.
We, the voters, hold the power with our vote. That power can be worthless if we do not take time to educate ourselves about the issues and the candidates. The electorate can be powerful if they are willing to read, watch and listen with an inquisitive mind. Read all sides: Marietta Times, The Anchor, Columbus Dispatch, Time, Newsweek, The Nation, etc. Watch a variety of television news sources, such as ABC, CBS, PBS, FOX, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, etc. Attend various forums to listen as the candidates respond to different audiences and issues. In other words, look at all sides of the candidates and issues before you go to vote!
You must be registered 30 days before you can vote. Election Day is Nov. 8, so you must be registered by Oct. 11, 2011. This can be done in person at the Washington County Courthouse Board of Election Office (take photo ID or SS card) or by mail: Washington County Board of Elections, 205 Putnam St., Room 3, Marietta, Ohio 45750. The form is available on line, www.electionsonthe.net/oh/washington.
A variety of ways to vote meets the needs of our diverse community and makes participation in the election process easier. As a registered voter, you can "early vote" at the Board of Election Office at least 35 days before Election Day. You can choose to "absentee vote" by putting your request in writing to the county Board of Elections. This can be done by mail, fax or in person up to 35 days before the election and no reason must be given. The 35-day period has been changed by law and will take effect Sept. 30, 2011 shortening the early voting to 17 days and the absentee voting to 21 days. Most commonly, citizens go to their assigned polling place on Election Day with identification (Ohio driver's license, military id, bank statement, current utility bill, current paycheck, government issued document showing your current address). If you are not sure of your polling location, go to www.electiononthe.net/oh/washington and click on polling location locator. You may also visit the county Board of Elections or call (740) 374-6828.
Betsy Cook is a member of the Marietta/Washington County League of Women Voters.