Published on September 6th, 2018 | by Colleen Craig


The Rookie Organizer’s Guide to Voter Registration Drives

So you want to organize a voter registration drive?

That’s great news because voter suppression is a real obstacle in Ohio. Between outrageously gerrymandered maps, restrictive voter ID laws, and Jon Husted’s notorious voter purge policy (which the Supreme Court is somehow totally down with), grassroots activists realize they need to be proactive to counter suppression. One way we can safeguard democracy and restore fairness in a swing state currently rigged to be red is to expand the electorate.

I don’t have to tell you that progressives have a lot to gain and too much to lose on November 6. You already know the Midterms are important. But as Ohio’s voter registration deadline for the election approaches on October 9, the time to mobilize new voters on issues like health care, education, and income inequality is now.

Special shout out to Indivisible: Ohio District 12, which has announced a voter registration canvass near Ohio State’s campus happening this Sunday, September 9. There’s still time to sign up!

Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to organize a voter registration drive in Ohio! Here’s what you need to know:


Basic Info

  • Ohio does not require any training for voter registration drives nor does the state require any notification that the drive is happening
  • Registration drive participants can be compensated based on their time but may not be compensated based on how many registrations they collect

Pro-tip: For voters who are unsure of their registration status (or if they need to update their address), make sure your team has a few smartphones connected to internet handy so they can verify registrations using >> this link << from the Secretary of State’s website.

Obtaining Blank Forms

Firstly, you’ll need voter registration forms, which you can obtain a few different ways.

  • Download and print blank forms from the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. Blank forms are allowed to be photocopied for use in voter registration drives.
  • Call the Secretary of State’s request line at (614) 466-3613 to request a large number of the registration applications. Up to 3,000 forms may be requested at a time.
  • Federal mail-in voter registration applications may also be used in voter registration drives. Fun fact: You can download these forms in 10 different languages

Handling Completed Forms

First and foremost, make sure that every registrant fills out their form completely.

Pro-tip: Pay special attention to the box asking about citizenship and age verification. It can be easy to miss for some people.

Once a form is complete, there are a few simple but really important guidelines to follow

  • Completed applications must be returned to either the Secretary of State’s office or a county Board of Elections within 10 days after the registration form is completed OR by the registration deadline (Oct. 9), whichever is earlier
  • Do not fill in any missing information on a registration form unless you have permission from the applicant.

Who Is An Eligible Voter?

A person may register to vote in Ohio if they are: (1) A U.S. Citizen; (2) 18 years or older by next general election; and (3) A resident of Ohio for 30 days before an election. Anyone who has been ruled incompetent to vote by a court or is currently incarcerated for a felony conviction may not register to vote. Registrations are canceled upon felony convictions. Upon release, citizens can re-register.

Other FAQs (as answered by Ohio Voice)

Q: Can a person experiencing homelessness or who does not have a permanent address still register to vote?
A: Yes. Individuals who regularly stay at a shelter or other location where they intend to return may list a shelter or other location as their residence on a voter registration form.

Q: Can a student register to vote in Ohio if they have an out-of-state driver’s license, or pay out-of-state tuition?
A: Yes, students may register to vote at a campus address, without an Ohio driver’s license and with no impact on their tuition.

Q: The Supreme Court has affirmed Ohio’s policy of purging infrequent voters. Who is at risk of being purged from the voter rolls?
A: If you have not voted in over six years, you could be at risk of being purged.

Here’s a summary of the state’s process for determining who to purge:

If you have not voted for two years Ohio mails a prepaid return card to make sure you (the would-be voter) still live at the same address. If the would-be voter fails to return the card and does not vote in any election for four more years, Ohio assumes the person has moved and removes the person’s voter registration from the rolls.

Q: Can we make photocopies of completed voter registration forms?
A:  Yes. You should make photocopies of each completed application so you may track whether applicants have been added to the voter rolls. However, sensitive information such as a voter’s date of birth, signature, full or partial Social Security Number, and driver’s license number should be removed before copying any application.

Q: Are there other things that I shouldn’t do?
A: Do not offer anything of value in exchange for completion of a voter registration form. If you do offer something minimal such as coffee or donuts at a voter registration table, make sure the refreshments are available to anyone who makes a request – not just those who complete the registration form.

Thank you to Ohio Voice for compiling the resources cited in this blog post. Check out this FAQ sheet for more in-depth answers to these and other questions.

Disclaimer: This blog post is meant to provide grassroots activists with basic guidelines about how to conduct voter registration drives and should not be considered a substitute for legal advice from a licensed professional.

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