WHEELING - General election voting is under way in Ohio, and the state's voters have "no excuse" not to cast an absentee ballot.
Any registered voter wishing to vote prior to the Nov. 3 general election can cast an absentee ballot, as it no longer is required that a voter have a reason for voting early. The deadline to request an absentee ballot application by mail is Oct. 31.
Voters also can contact their respective board of elections office by phone to request an application.
In addition, voters can cast an absentee ballot in person at elections board offices until the close of normal office hours Nov. 2 -the day prior to the election.
Local boards of elections say they have no preference about whether residents vote absentee or at their assigned polling place on Election Day.
"We don't care what they do - whatever is easiest for them," said William Shubat, director of elections in Belmont County. "Personally, I think absentee voting is better for people because they can vote in their home and can take their time.
"With the cost of gasoline and the combining of precincts - people have to travel farther - this is a way they should look at to vote," he added.
Shubat said about 14,000 of Belmont County's 44,000 registered voters cast absentee ballots in last year's presidential election. This year, absentee ballot requests are coming in at a rate of about 200 a day, according to Shubat.
Tracy Curtis, deputy director of elections in Monroe County, agreed that absentee voting is more convenient for voters.
"They want to vote at home and get it over with," she said.
Curtis noted, however, that the cost of mailing a ballot to a voter has increased - from $1.17 last year to $1.22 this year.
"It's the voter's right to vote absentee if they wish to cast their ballot that way," said Sharon Lee, director of elections in Harrison County. "A lot of people do like voting that way. They like the convenience and not waiting in line."
But Diane Gribble, director of elections in Jefferson County, is surprised more residents aren't taking advantage of the chance to vote absentee.
"We thought they would, because you don't have to have a reason," she said. "We were expecting to get hit harder. Whether people are going to wait until the last few weeks of the election, I don't know.
"We're getting the average amount we have for this type of election," she continued. "It's pretty normal."