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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s elections chief expressed confidence Monday that the presidential battleground state is prepared for the start of early voting, despite three early voting days that remain in limbo because of a court challenge.
Ohioans can cast an early ballot by mail or in person beginning Tuesday for the Nov. 6 election.
“Everything in Ohio is ready to go,” Secretary of State Jon Husted told reporters in Columbus on the eve of the early voting kick-off.
This fall marks the first time election boards have had uniform early voting hours and the first time absentee ballot applications are being mailed to every registered voter statewide.
More than 922,000 absentee ballot applications have been received by local boards as of Friday, Husted said.
It’s unclear how that number compares to the last presidential election, because the state didn’t collect the same details on mailed ballots, he said.
Ohio is among 34 states, plus the District of Columbia, where people can vote early without giving a reason. About 30 percent of the state’s total vote — or roughly 1.7 million ballots — came in ahead of Election Day in 2008.
President Barack Obama won Ohio in 2008, but it’s among the closely contested states this year.
Husted, a Republican, said he doesn’t make predictions about turnout in elections. But he noted, “We’ve seen no evidence to believe that there’s going to be an abnormally high or low turnout.”
About 7.8 million Ohioans are currently registered to vote, compared with 8.2 million in 2008. Husted said he expects that count to grow slightly. Voter registration in the state ends on Oct. 9.
Husted also noted that the state’s voter rolls have been updated to remove roughly 150,000 deceased voters and more than 300,000 duplicate registrations since 2010.
Asked whether anyone has been removed because they appear not to be a citizen, Husted said “I am not aware of a case where that’s happened.”
He said the state has no information that would lead officials to believe there are presently any noncitizens on the voter rolls, but he added that Ohio is working with the Department of Homeland Security on an agreement as to how the state could access that information.
Three early voting days remain in flux as the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati considers whether to uphold or overturn a lower court’s ruling that voting be allowed on the weekend and Monday before a Tuesday election.
Husted said he has told local boards to expect a directive on the final days “at some point in time.”
“It’s a matter for the courts right now,” he said. “We will comply with whatever guidance the court provides us.”
Election officials in southwestern Ohio’s Montgomery County said Monday they’re trying to clear up confusion among voters about when and how they can cast their ballots as those final weekend hours remain up in the air.
Steve Harsman, deputy director of the county’s board of elections, said voters have been calling in confused about when they can vote.
In an effort to provide clarity, voters in the county that’s home to Dayton will start getting postcards on Monday that provide polling locations, weekday voting hours and other information.
Since the last presidential election, polling places in the county have been cut from 360 to 176 and precincts have been reduced from 548 to 360 for budgetary reasons, Harsman said.
Early voting has been credited with helping reduce some of the long lines that had plagued Ohio polls in the 2004 presidential election, when the state’s electoral votes enabled President George W. Bush to return to the White House for a second term.
“Ohio has seen the hottest fires, and we are the strongest steel,” Husted said. “And we are prepared for this election, and things will run very smoothly.”
Associated Press writer Amanda Lee Myers contributed to this report from Cincinnati.
By ANN SANNER