Melissa Tacchi, Senior Staff Writer

More than 15,000 Ohio voters have elected to cast their ballots early in this year’s gubernatorial election, a recorded increase from the 2006 election.

After a change in the Ohio state law in 2005 that allowed for any registered voter to cast an early ballot in person or via mail without reason, the Butler County Board of Elections has observed an increase in pre-Election Day voting, according to Butler County Board of Elections Director Betty McGary.

“Prior to the law change, voters had to meet certain requirements in order to partake in early or absentee voting,” McGary said. “Registered voters had to be 65 years or older or had to prove they were going to be out of town on Election Day to name a few contingencies.”

According to McGary, the state recognized the need to generate an increase in voter participation.

The law was established in order to make voting more convenient for those who are unavailable on Election Day or prefer to vote in the privacy of their own home.

For sophomore Danielle DeFrancisco, the absentee and early voting law has allowed her family to become more involved in state elections.

“I haven’t voted in this year’s election cycle yet, but I know my parents have,” DeFrancisco said. “They like to vote early so that they can do so when they have the time. My parents are very active, so I am sure that they appreciate the change.”

According to the Butler County Board of Elections, the 2006 gubernatorial election held the record for early voters, with 14,786 ballots cast. This number accounted for 11 percent of Butler County’s total voter population. McGary emphasized the importance of 2010 voting results compared to previous gubernatorial elections.

“Last year’s election was considered to be an odd year election,” McGary said. “Of course the number of early voters this year will be drastically higher because the gubernatorial election is the second largest turnout after the presidential election.”

For Ron Irvine, regional field director of the Butler County Democratic Party Campaign Team, early or absentee voting is important to the party for several reasons.

“I absolutely encourage early or absentee voting,” Irvine said. “Early voting allows for those who have to run the polls and work on Election Day to place their vote ahead of time so that they do not have to stop helping others to go and vote. It’s also a great way for us to see where we stand as far as the democratic universe. An early vote is a vote in the bank.”

Early or absentee votes may be cast any time before Nov. 1, according to McGary. For Oxford community members, votes may be cast in the ballroom at the Oxford Community Arts Center at 10 S. College Ave.