LIMA — The 2018 midterm election is officially less than a month away.
And while many political operatives will be pushing rallies and holding debates in the coming weeks to pump up enthusiasm for voting, one deadline remains before citizens can practice their voting rights — the Ohio voter registration date.
If individuals have already registered in the past and voted in recent elections, they are most likely still on the rolls. But for those who have recently turned 18 or haven’t voted in the last six years, they may need to file new paperwork or register online prior to the Tuesday deadline in order to vote.
At The Ohio State University Lima campus, the History Club has worked hard this past week to help those reaching 18. Over the last week, the club has been rallying volunteers and setting up tables covered in registration forms to ensure young local residents are informed voters before practicing their citizenship.
By Friday afternoon, History Club President April Nester and a large team of trained volunteers had been able to register an extra 188 voters to join Allen County’s roughly 69,000 individuals currently registered in the county.
“I thought it would be good to get young people involved. The seal of the building outside says we’re educating for citizenship, so this is a way to educate for citizenship,” Nester said. “So yeah, citizenship! Democracy is getting some skin in the game.”
An nontraditional student, Nester had worked in political campaigns in the past prior to attending the university, and she said that while some students had shown interest in getting voters registered, few had the past experience to get volunteers and the right forms in place for a registration drive.
Since she had the experience, she and the history club took the initiative and set up tables at three locations. For anyone who has spent some time on campus in the past week, they’ve probably been approached by at least one of the drive’s volunteers.
“Have you registered to vote? Do you know who you’re voting for?” Kirsten Brunswick called to one passing student.
As a volunteer, she said she’s seen a lot of students registered, but they are less knowledgeable about who is up for re-election. While young students know enough about the national conversation, Brunswick said many students are less familiar with state issues and races.
As for enthusiasm, volunteer Logan Grant said some students were eager to register to vote. At the other end of the spectrum, there was also probably a few who registered because of the cookies offered if they filled in the voter registration form, he said.
Nester said as part of the drive, she made sure partisan issues of either side weren’t pushed by volunteers, and the information provided was used to inform voters about the elections.
Kathy Meyer, Allen County Board of Elections director, said she’s already heard from a number of residents inquiring if they are still registered with the state, and even more — roughly 4,000 — have already requested absentee ballots. For a midterm election, that number shows higher than normal interest, and the county is preparing for high voter turnout, up to 80 percent, as a result.
“We’d love to get 100 percent, but we know we’re not going to get that,” Meyer said. “We’d love to see as many people vote that can and will. That’s what we’re here for.”
Voters can check registration or register online at the Ohio Secretary of State website.
After Tuesday, Ohio voters don’t necessarily have to wait until Nov. 6 to visit the polls. Early voting begins on Wednesday.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.