Early voting remains strong. Here's what Ohioans need to know as Aug. 8 election nears

Voters line up in front of the Franklin County Board of Elections on July 31.
Voters line up in front of the Franklin County Board of Elections on July 31.

With the Aug. 8 election just days away, voter turnout is continuing to shatter expectations.

ISSUE 1: Everything to know about Ohio Issue 1 and the August special election

Ohioans will decide Tuesday whether to support Issue 1, a proposed ballot measure that would make it harder to amend the state constitution. Though it's being held at an unusual time of year, the election is drawing national attention because of its potential implications for reproductive rights.

The high stakes of the election have already driven voters to the polls. Because Ohio hasn't held a statewide election in August since 1926, many were initially concerned that turnout would be low. Yet as of Friday, 578,490 Ohioans had voted early on Issue 1 since June 23.

Data shows turnout is only increasing, with over 223,000 votes cast this week. Over 35,000 Ohioans voted early on Aug. 1, marking the most in-person votes cast for Issue 1 in a single day so far. About 32,000 voters cast early in-person ballots on Wednesday, while nearly 13,000 returned absentee ballots.

Aaron Ockerman, executive director for the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said the continued turnout has been "fantastic" to see.

"Week over week it gets bigger and bigger, and I think every board around the state is anticipating this to be a big weekend," Ockerman said.

Early voting and Election Day hours

Saturday and Sunday are the last days to vote early in-person on Issue 1. Voting will take place at your county board of elections, which can be found on the secretary of state's website.

Early voting hours this weekend are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Voters should "be prepared to wait" for up to an hour at early voting centers, Ockerman said. Because more people are off work and school, voters tend to flock to the polls over the weekend. Lines on Election Day are likely to be shorter, he said.

A recent change in state law took away early in-person voting on the Monday before Election Day, so polls will be closed on Aug. 7. The new rules allowed for extended early voting hours during the week before Election Day.

Polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 8. You can find your polling location at voterlookup.ohiosos.gov.

Some Ohioans may have a different polling location than usual. Because the Aug. 8 election was approved in May, a small number of schools and churches that typically serve as polling locations already had other activities on their schedules and were unavailable on Election Day.

If your usual polling location has been changed, you should have received a flyer in the mail from the Secretary of State's office. But voters are encouraged to double check online and confirm where they'll be voting.

Once the polls close, early votes will be the first to be counted on election night. Results from polling locations across the state will continue to come in throughout Tuesday night and potentially into Wednesday morning.

Some counties still short on poll workers

As of Wednesday, elections officials had recruited over 32,000 poll workers statewide, surpassing their goal of 31,811. However, according to the Secretary of State's official poll worker tracker, 50 of Ohio's 88 counties still hadn't met their goals for poll worker recruitment.

Counties typically set their target number of poll workers at 115% of the minimum amount needed to operate the polls. Of the 50 counties that haven't met this 115% target, 23 still haven't reached the minimum number, according to a Wednesday press release from the Secretary of State's office.

Some officials have been apprehensive throughout the summer about recruiting enough poll workers during an unusually-timed election, and several counties have scrambled for weeks to fill positions.

Rob Nichols, spokesman for Secretary of State Frank LaRose, said he expects that even counties with poll worker shortages will be able to work around any challenges and properly staff the polls.

"We believe our counties are on track, and our professional boards of elections, which have done this time and time again...will have enough poll workers to make sure we can have a fair, secure election," Nichols said.

This story will be updated as more early voting numbers become available.

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Ohio August special election: Early voting continues to surge