The Delaware County Board of Elections has opened an absentee voting center in Lewis Center for the May 3 election.

The Delaware County Board of Elections has opened an absentee voting center in Lewis Center for the May 3 election.

Absentee voting began March 29 and will end Monday, May 2.

"We are test-piloting the absentee vote center for the May 3 special election," said board of elections director Brian Mumford. "If it is successful, we hope to bring it back again in November before going into the presidential elections of 2012."

The new center will be in room L42 of the Delaware County Board of Developmental Disabilities building on the northeast corner of Orange Road and U.S. Route 23. The address is 149 E. Orange Road.

The county hopes to save money on the cost of providing absentee voting.

"Processing (paper) absentee ballots is extremely labor-intensive and requires more postage. Voting on electronic voting machines, however, is much faster and requires far less man hours to count and tabulate results," Mumford said.

The board of elections selected the southern part of the county to open the facility because that's where most registered voters live.

"If you draw a line through the county from east to west, approximately 77,163 of our active voters live south of the city of Delaware and approximately 32,807 live north of the city, including the city itself," Mumford said.

"We haven't had an absentee vote center, but we've had no-fault absentee voting since 2006 in Ohio," said Mumford. Absentee voters have most recently voted at the board office at 2079 U.S. 23 north of Delaware.

By law, the board of elections cannot have more than one absentee vote location, Mumford said.

Since Ohio's change to no-fault absentee voting, the number of people using that method has increased, said Karla Herron, board of elections deputy director.

Between the presidential elections of 2004 and 2008, absentee voting in the county increased 435 percent.

"In the 2010 general election, approximately 12,500 voters voted an absentee ballot. In the 2004 presidential (election), 7,950 voters voted absentee. And for the 2008 presidential (election), approximately 34,550 voters cast an absentee ballot," she said.

The board of elections would like to see more absentee voters use the voting center. About 85 percent of the county's absentee voters use mail-in ballots, Herron said.

Election officials would like to see half of the absentee voters use the center.

Voters typically receive an absentee ballot by mail after requesting one. Each sent ballot costs the board of elections about $1.15 including postage.

Voting at the center eliminates most of that cost. The new location comes to the board of elections at no cost because the county owns the building.

Mumford said Franklin County has been using an off-site absentee vote center since 2008 at the Franklin County Veterans Memorial.

The center will be open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, April 23 and 30. For more information, visit www.co. delaware.oh.us/boe or call (740) 833-2080.