Student Voting Guide | Ohio

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Ohio.

September 9, 2014

This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of Ohio. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state in which you attend school. If you are interested in casting an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.

The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.

This voting guide was last updated September 30 2014.


Your registration form must be received or postmarked by thirty (30) days before the election.[1]  You may register to vote if you will be 18 by the next November election,[2] and you may vote in a primary if you will be 18 by the next general election.[3] You may check your voter information online at the Secretary of State’s website here. If you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote.[4] If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.


At School. Students can establish residency in Ohio if they have a present intention to remain at their Ohio school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.[5] Ohio law defines residency as the place in which your home is “fixed” and to which you have an “intention of returning.”[6] A place does not become your residence unless you intend to make it your “permanent” home.[7] The word “permanent” does not require that you plan to live in Ohio forever but that at least you intend to return there;[8] in other words it means that you consider your college address, and not (for example) your parents’ address, your “home”.[9]

At Home. Students who lived in Ohio before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep their Ohio voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ Ohio address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. Like most states, Ohio allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school, as long as they intend to return to Ohio.[10] However, you can lose your Ohio residency by establishing residency in a new state,[11] or by voting in another state.[12]

While the law does not clearly state merely registering to vote in another state would constitute abandonment of residency in Ohio; some judges or officials might view it as such.  If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to Ohio with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in Ohio.

Timing. You are only eligible to vote in Ohio if you have been a resident of the precinct and county in which you are registered for 30 days prior to the election.[13] This means that if you move within Ohio, you will need to update your address to vote in your new precinct. If you move precincts in the 30 days before an election, you will only be able to cast a provisional ballot.[14]

Implications of residency. Voting in Ohio may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents.

Challenges to Residency. Your eligibility to vote can be challenged by another registered voter on the basis of your residency in advance of the election.[15] This challenge must happen at least 20 days before the election.[16] The board of elections will review their records; if their records are inconclusive, the board will notify you and may hold a hearing, including witnesses and testimony under oath, about your eligibility to vote (if the Board does opt to hold a hearing, it must do so within 10 days after receiving the challenge).[17] A registered voter can also challenge your eligibility to vote up to nineteen days before Election Day; in such a case, you will be notified of the challenge at the polls and given an opportunity to establish your qualifications to vote.[18] If you can establish your right to vote, you will be permitted to cast a ballot.[19]

Your eligibility to vote may also be challenged at the polling place by any precinct election official.[20] If challenged, you will be asked to take an oath and answer questions regarding your eligibility.[21] If you take the oath and a majority of the election officials believe you are eligible to vote, you can vote.[22] If not, you will be able to vote a provisional ballot, which will be counted only if the board of elections determines that you are eligible.[23]


Ohio has an ID requirement for all voters.[24] When you come to vote at the polls, you must show one piece of identification stating your name and address; this must match the voter register or you will only be able to cast a provisional ballot.[25]

Acceptable ID includes:[26]

-       an Ohio drivers’ license or state ID issued by the Ohio DMV;

-       a military ID;

-       any other photo ID issued by the US or Ohio governments (including college ID), but note this ID must include your current address and not be expired;

-       a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document (but not your notice of voter registration form). This document must include both your name and current address.[27]

If you cannot show ID, you can vote by provisional ballot,[28] as long as you sign a written affirmation that you are a registered voter in the jurisdiction and are eligible to vote in that election.

If you cast a provisional ballot because you did not provide ID or your eligibility was challenged (before or during your time at the polls), you must provide identification in order for your vote to be counted.[29] The state provides a toll-free number to determine whether you need to appear before the Elections Board with further ID; if so, you will need to appear in person before your County’s Election Board within seven days of the election[30] to present your ID or other information needed to resolve your provisional ballot.

Absentee Voting

Ohio is a no-fault absentee state — anyone who is eligible to vote in an election may vote absentee and does not need to give a reason.[31] Your application to get an absentee ballot must include either your Ohio driver’s license or state identification number, the last four digits of your Social Security number, or a copy of a form of identification that would be accepted at the polls on Election Day (see above).[32]

Blank applications are available on the web site of the Secretary of State here. If you mail it in, your application must be received by the county director of elections by noon on the third day before the election; if you deliver your application in person you must do so prior to 6 p.m. on the Friday before the election.[33]

Your ballot must be delivered to the director of elections by the close of the polls on Election Day.[34] If you return your ballot by mail, it will be accepted up to ten days after the election, as long as it is signed or postmarked on the day before Election Day.[35] You cannot deliver your ballot by fax or email.[36]

Early Voting

As of September 2014, Ohio’s early voting program is subject to ongoing litigation. The following is in effect after a September 29, 2014 court order:

Ohio provides early voting through in-person absentee voting. Per a September 30, 2014 court order, early voting in the 2014 General Election begins 29 days before an election and continues through the Monday before Election Day.[37] The full extent of the early voting calendar remains the subject of litigation. You should check with your county elections office for the exact dates, times, and locations for early voting. 

 Last Updated September 30, 2014.

[1] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.19(A).

[2] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.07.

[3] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.011.

[4] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 2961.01

[5] See Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 330 (1972); Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 328 (2d Cir. 1986).

[6] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(A).

[7] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(C).

[8] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(A).

[9] Frequently Asked Questions About Voter Eligibility, Ohio Sec’y of State,, see also State ex rel. May v. Jones, 16 Ohio App. 2d 140, 144 (Ohio Ct. App. 1968) (a student voter who “considers the [college precinct] his home for the present and has no intention of returning to his parents' home” is a resident of that precinct).

[10] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(B).

[11] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(E).

[12] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.02(H).

[13] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06(A).

[14] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.181(A)(6).

[15] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.24(A).

[16] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.24(A).

[17] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.24(B).

[18] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.19.

[19] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.19.

[20] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.20

[21] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.20(A)-(D).

[22] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.20(D).

[23] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.20(D).

[24] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.18(A)(1).

[25] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.18(A)(1).

[27] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.18(A)(1).

[28] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.18(A)(2).

[29] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.181(B)(4).

[30] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3505.181(B)(7).

[31] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3509.02(A); see also, Frequently Asked Questions About Voting Absentee, Ohio Sec’y of State,

[32] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3509.03(E).

[33] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3509.03(I)

[34] Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3509.05(A).

[36] “Voting Absentee by Mail,” Ohio Sec’y of State,