Ohioans should know Friday whether they can begin early voting for November's election Tuesday or not until Oct. 22.
The date depends on whether the advocacy group ProgressOhio will obtain enough signatures on a petition by the end of Thursday to keep new election legislation approved by the Ohio General Assembly from taking effect this year.
"If so it will stay the new law from taking effect (Friday) and early voting will begin Oct. 4," said Matt McClellan, spokesman for Secretary of State John Husted.
If the new legislation, Amended Substitute House Bill 194, becomes effective, early voting in person at local election board offices would not begin until Oct. 22, McClellan said.
But Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio, said Tuesday the group believes more than enough signatures have been collected.
"We need 231,324 signatures ... and we expect to exceed that number as we believe we're running way ahead of our projections," he said. "People are still signing onto the petition, so we won't have a final count until Thursday."
At at glance
ProgressOhio has until the end of Thursday to submit 231,324 signatures on a petition to Ohio Secretary of State John Husted's office.
If enough signatures have been obtained, the petition would effectively prevent a new state election law from becoming effective until the November 2012 election.
If the new law is delayed, early voting for the 2011 general election would begin Tuesday.
If the new law becomes effective Friday, early voting in person for this year's general election would begin Oct. 22.
Source: Ohio Secretary of State's Office.
Rothenberg said ProgressOhio expects to hold a press conference around 1 p.m. Thursday to announce submission of the petition to the secretary of state's office.
House Bill 194, signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June, would overhaul the state's current election law, including, among other changes, the date when voters can begin casting absentee ballots.
Opponents to the law say it would also create longer lines on election day, restrict poll workers from helping voters submit a valid ballot, and eliminate early voting in evenings, Saturday afternoon, and Sundays.
ProgressOhio, supported by former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, won approval in August from current Secretary Husted to proceed to gather signatures that would petition the new law to the ballot in 2012.
If there are enough signatures by Thursday, current election law remains in effect until voters decide the issue during the November 2012 election.
"We currently have 275 absentee ballot applications ready to go on Oct. 4 if the new law is (delayed)," said Peggy Byers, director of the Washington County Board of Elections.
"And people can still file applications for absentee ballots on our website at www.electionsonthe.net or they can call our office at 374-6828," she added.
Byers noted that Oct. 11 is the last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 general election, and registration forms can also be downloaded from the website or voters can register at the Board of Elections Office in the Washington County Courthouse.
"And local people should be aware that we just did a purge from our system of about 2,000 voters who didn't vote in the last two federal elections," she said. "So anyone who hasn't voted in those elections may have to re-register to participate in the November election."