We are less than two months away from the upcoming Presidential election. Tensions are running high in our country as we consider which candidate is best for the position.

A topic that comes up frequently is that of mail-in voting and just how safe it is. Is this process trustworthy? How does the mail-in voting process work?

Let’s start at the beginning. Mail-in voting is not a new idea. The process started during the American Civil War.

The process has continued since then and some states, including Colorado, rely very heavily on mail-in ballots during elections.

In Ohio, the mail-in voting system is handled like this; to get a ballot, a voter will need to complete an absentee ballot application. The completed application needs to be returned to their local board of elections (BOE) either by mail, dropped off, or placed in the office ballot box receptacle.

It is important to make sure a phone number or e-mail address is listed on the application for contacting if there are issues with your application.

Once the voter returns the ballot application, the information is verified by the BOE and a ballot is issued to the voter. The applications are processed the day the BOE receives them.

The ballots are returned to the BOE in the special enclosed identification envelope. Voters must complete information provided on the envelope so they can be properly identified. The information is reviewed against the voter registration system and the ballot is checked for sufficient information.

Ballots remain in the identification envelopes in a fire-proof safe that is managed by a dual lock. That means an authorized Democrat employee and an authorized Republican employee both have keys and both keys are needed to get to the key to unlock the safe with the ballots.

When the time comes to scan the ballots, ballots are removed from the identification envelopes by an authorized bi-partisan team with the envelopes remaining face down so that there is no breech in the secrecy of the person voting the ballot.

The ballots and identification envelopes are kept separate and the ballots are scanned immediately and placed back in the secure, fire-proof safe until after the official canvas has been completed.

Throughout the process, there is reconciliation of the ballots received so that there are no missed ballots.

“It’s quite the process, but very secure and Paulding County voters can be assured that Ohio has very secure elections,” stated Brenda Crawford, Paulding County Board of Elections director.

To ensure you receive your mail-in ballot in time for the election, please return your application as soon as possible.

Numerous organizations outside of the BOE have been sending out applications for absentee ballots. Only one application will be processed by the BOE office and there is no need to send in multiple applications.

The Board of Elections will be able to begin mailing out the ballots on Oct. 6, which is also the first day of in-person early voting.

In-person early voting will be held at the Paulding County Board of Elections office at 105 E. Perry Street in Paulding.

“We would encourage voters to not come over the lunch hour because we expect to be busier during that time and there will be lines,” explains Crawford.

“We are required to honor social distancing and strongly encourage voters to wear makes and bring their own pen. There will be a maximum limit occupancy in the voting area at the front of our office,” said Crawford.

Some other organizations besides the Board of Elections have mailed applications to area residents. As long as those applications contain sufficient information and they are mailed to their local BOE, then they will be accepted. If you are unsure about an application you received, contact the BOE at 419-399-8230.

If you want to vote by mail-in ballot, but are unsure if it will be received, applications can be dropped off at anytime in the ballot receptacle outside of the office. The ballot box is checked throughout the day by a bi-partisan team and has a 24/7 monitoring camera system.

If the office is open, you are welcome to bring your application and/or ballot inside also.

Mail-in voting and absentee voting is safe. Many people have made claims that it is fraudulent, but research shows that isn’t true.

“We are required to conduct an audit after an election to show that results are correct, there are no variations. I began employment in this office in 2005 and I don’t recall any variation on our hand count audit versus election results,” said Crawford.

The county has changed voting equipment throughout the years. In 2019, the present all paper ballot system was purchased. They have had two elections with the new system and there have been no issues with votes being counted incorrectly.

“I think a lot of voters will still vote on Election Day. A lot of voters just still want to be a part of Election Day voting, that is what they believe in,” Crawford states.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. You may check on the office website to verify your application has been received and processed, when your ballot was mailed to you, and when the office received your ballot and if it will count. It is illegal to vote twice.