Should voters "Expect great things?"

Should voters "Expect great things?"

Franklin County residents casting ballots early this fall will do so in a building where that was once the slogan.

The former Kohl's department store at 1700 Morse Road, which closed in February 2011, was chosen by the Franklin County Board of Elections as the location for in-person absentee voting for this year's general election.

The decision was announced last week.

The elections board is renting 40,000 square feet of the total the former department store's 108,000 square feet , according to elections board spokesman Ben Piscitelli. The three-month lease with property owner NMRD Ltd. of New Albany will cost $75,000.

Early voting begins Tuesday, Oct. 2, and continues through Friday, Nov. 2.

The hours and days of operation were up in the air until Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted broke a tie between the Democrats and Republicans on the board of elections. He ruled late last week that the branch would be open during the board's regular business hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, with the exception of remaining open until 6 p.m. the final day.

Veterans Memorial was used in 2008, also a presidential election year, and while that location was OK, the elections board was unable to secure one of the larger rooms in the facility on West Broad Street, Piscitelli said last week.

"We'd looked for just about a year," he said. "We looked at a couple of others properties up in the Morse Road area because it's really a good location for the bulk of voters in Franklin County."

The vacated property at 1700 Morse Road is "centrally located to 60 percent of voters in Franklin County," Piscitelli said.

Other options investigated by board officials included the former Max and Erma's corporate headquarters, the building Suburban News Publications vacated on Sinclair Road following the merger with ThisWeek Community News and space within the Franklin County Job and Family Services building, directly across Morse Road from the site eventually settled upon.

"They really didn't stack up to the site that we chose in terms of space and parking," Piscitelli said.

"We believe most voters will find this year's site on Morse Road convenient," Board of Elections Director Bill Anthony said in an announcement. "It's a short drive from I-71 and has parking large enough for a shopping center."

The 40,000 square feet being leased by the board will provide sufficient space for absentee voters to wait inside, out of the weather, in case of lines.

"It saves us the job of putting up some type of tent for them to wait under," Piscitelli said. "This really has no downside to it at all."

The three-month lease provides elections board employees sufficient time to move in 100 voting machines and other equipment and then remove it once early voting is over, Piscitelli said.

"We have to do some work there to make sure there are capabilities to link into our voter database here," he said. "We didn't have to do any special renovation inside the building. It had everything we needed, and now it's just a matter of making sure it's computer-capable ... so we can check voter registration and the like."

In-person voting isn't the only way to cast absentee ballots, Board of Elections Deputy Director Dana Welch said.

"The secretary of state will mail absentee applications to all registered voters shortly after Labor Day," Welch said in a statement. "No one will have to drive to a polling place or stand in line if they vote by mail."