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What is a primary?

A primary election is the process used by political parties to choose their nominees for the general election, which happens on the first Tuesday in November. In a primary, registered voters cast their votes to party nominees for various elected offices, which can include President of the United States, Senators and Congressional representatives that serve in Washington, state senators and representatives who make up Ohio’s General Assembly, judges, governors, and city and county offices like mayor, city council, prosecutor, sheriff, and commissioner. Some communities also have issues on the ballot, like tax levies, changes to zoning laws, or amending local charters.


Why should I vote in a primary?

Voting in a primary gives you a say in choosing the candidates who will be in the general election. Participating in the primary means you help shape the priorities and direction of the race– the positions and platforms of the candidate who wins the primary influence what issues will be important in the general election. Even when candidates belong to the same party, they often have very different ideas about how to govern and what issues they will focus on, giving voters options for choosing who best represents their interests and values. 


The presidential nominees will have already been decided by March 19th. Why should I bother voting?

Because the race for a party’s nominee for president is just one of many, many other races on the ballot in a primary election! And the offices up for election all have real impact on you and your community (some would even say more than a president does). How Ohioans vote in a primary affects what kind of education system we have, how we define essential services and how we pay for them, public safety, how much we pay in taxes, and what guides community development. 


Many elections are actually decided in the primary, too. Some communities are heavily Republican, or heavily Democratic, so whoever wins in the primary is almost guaranteed to win in November. Turnout in primary elections also shows our leaders that we care about our democracy and that we will hold politicians accountable through our votes.


Every vote counts, in every election. The more voters who participate, the more candidates from each party will reflect the will of the people.


What offices are on the ballot in the 2024 primary?

Each community’s ballot is a little different, as some will have local issues and races others don’t, but all Ohio primary voters will be choosing party nominees for:

  • President of the United States

  • US House

  • Ohio Supreme Court Justice

  • Ohio District Court of Appeals

  • Ohio Senate: half of the Senate seats are up for election

  • Ohio House of Representatives: all House seats are up for election

  • County Clerk of Courts, Prosecutor, Commissioner, Sheriff, Treasurer, Coroner, Engineer, and Recorder

Voters voting a Republican ballot will also be choosing that party’s nominee for the US. Senate; the Democratic nominee is running unopposed in the primary. Some counties may also be voting on Common Pleas and County Judges.


I’m an Independent– can I still vote?

Yes! Ohio has what’s called ‘semi-open’ primaries, which means any registered voter can vote in the primary, regardless of whether they are registered with a given party, or even if they are registered with a party (most Ohioans aren’t). While any registered voter can participate in Ohio’s primary, they must choose between a Republican ballot and a Democratic ballot– voters in Ohio can’t vote for both Republican and Democratic candidates during a primary election. 


I’m a Democrat but really want to vote for a Republican candidate. Can I do that?

Yes– any voter can request a ballot from either party. But voters must choose which party’s ballot they want to vote on, as voters will only receive one ballot.


I’m 17 years old but will be 18 by the November election. Can I vote in the primary?

Yes! 17-year-olds who will be 18 by November 5th can vote on candidates. The only thing they cannot vote on are issues.


Where can I find what will be on my ballot? 

Your county Board of Elections office has two sample ballots for voters to see what offices are up for election, and who the candidates are: one with Republican candidates and one with Democratic candidates.  You can find your county’s Board of Elections here. Once you are on your county’s site, you will enter your name and the ballot options for your district will come up.


Where can I find information about the candidates and issues on my ballot?

Vote411 has personalized nonpartisan information about the candidates and issues on your ballot. Voters just enter their address and everything on their ballot will pop up.

Candidate forums and debates are helpful ways to learn what candidates think about different issues, and how they would act in a variety of scenarios. Going to candidate events and looking at their website will also tell you what their priorities as an elected official would be, too. All of these things can also give some clues about personality and temperament, but be sure to observe more than one of these to give you a fuller picture of the candidate’s intentions and capacities.    


Your local media can also be a good source of information, especially when candidates participate in interviews. Often local papers will publish the candidates' positions and background ahead of the election, and it can be helpful to look at them side by side. 


When is Election Day?

Election Day is March 19th, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. 


Do primary elections offer early voting? 

Yes! You can vote early at your county Board of Elections. The days are times this year are: 

  • Wednesday, February 21 through Friday, 23: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • Monday, February 26 through Friday, March 1: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • Monday, March 4 through Friday, March 8: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

  • Saturday, March 9: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

  • Monday, March 11: 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

  • Tuesday, March 12: 7:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m.

  • Wednesday, March 13 through Friday, March 15: 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

  • Saturday, March 16: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

  • Sunday, March 17: 1-5 p.m.

How about voting by mail aka absentee voting?

Yes, voters can absolutely choose to vote by mail, and we don't need any special reason in Ohio. Voting by mail can be an especially good option for people who don’t have an Ohio driver’s license or Ohio BMV-issued Ohio ID, as only the last 4 digits of their Social Security number are required, or who have schedules that can be unpredictable.


Be sure to give yourself plenty of time for your ballot to arrive, and return your ballot as quickly as you can by mail or by placing it in your county Board of Elections’ dropbox. If you are unable to get your ballot into the mail or take it to the drop box yourself, it's important to know that Ohio law restricts who can help you. The following family members are the only people who can provide this assistance to voters:

  • father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandfather, grandmother, brother, or sister of the whole or half blood, or the son, daughter, adopting parent, adopted child, stepparent, stepchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece


What kind of ID is required to vote?

Voting in person, either during the early voting period or on Election Day, requires one of the following kinds of ID:

  • Ohio driver’s license (it’s ok if the address is not current)

  • Ohio BMV-issued State of Ohio ID card

  • US Passport or Passport card

  • US Military ID card

  • Ohio National Guard ID card

  • US Department of Veterans Affairs ID card

  • All IDs must have:

    • An expiration date that has not passed

    • A photo of the voter

    • The voter’s name, which must be the same or nearly the same as it appears on the Poll List or Poll Book


What if I don’t have any of the IDs listed here?

  • You can vote by mail, aka vote by absentee ballot– only the last 4 digits of your Social Security number is needed for that.

  • You can get a free State of Ohio ID if you are at least 17 years old through the Ohio BMV

  • You can get help through VoteRiders – they can help get the documents you need to prove your identity, help pay BMV fines preventing you from having a driver’s license, and even help connect you with a lawyer if you need one.

Make a plan to vote!

Go here to get tips on how to be prepared for any election. 

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