A look into Election Day in Portage County

Sarah Richardson was the first voter in line at the Rec on Nov. 3, 2020. 

KentWired Staff

Our staff is spending all day visiting various polling locations and hearing from members of the greater Kent community. Here’s a look at the people voting, volunteering and being a part of Election Day in Portage County.

First voter at the Beverly J. Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center

Sarah Richardson was the first person to vote at the Beverly J. Warren Student Recreation and Wellness Center today. She arrived right at 6:30 a.m. ready to cast her vote before the sun had even risen in the sky. 

This was a very important election for Richardson, and it’s her first time voting in a presidential election.

“I’m 19 so it’s the first presidential election that I could vote for. … It just seems like a big election so I thought I’d use my duties as a citizen and come out and vote,” Richardson said.

Richardson talked about why she thinks it is important for people to get out and vote.

“I think that every vote counts,” she said. “I don’t think people realize that if they sit at home versus if they go to vote it makes a big difference. We have to use our voices to shape what the outcome of our country is.”

She proudly put the Ohio “I heart voting” sticker on her coat and posed for a photo.

Richardson was the first of many young voters that turned out at the Rec to vote this morning, as well as people on their way to work early this morning. The line started out short and fast-moving with plenty of open voting booths.

Contact Sylvia Lorson at [email protected].

Rookie poll worker at the Rec

Today was Eric Asp’s first time working at the polls. He was eager to help anyone that needed it by giving directions and answering questions.

What inspired Asp to go out and volunteer this year was, what he called, an act of anti-racism.

“I’ve been learning a lot this year about racism and in particular how to be anti-racist,” Asp said. 

He said that earlier this year, he did a lot of reading on anti-racism. One book in particular that he mentioned was “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism” by Jemar Tisby.

“One of the takeaways from that was just how important it is to preserve the right for people of color to have their voice heard,” Asp said. “And one of his practical suggestions was to join the precinct election official process to be able to help protect people’s right to vote.”

Asp said that it is important for people to get out and vote because the U.S. is a democracy. 

“The idea is ‘the people rule,’” Asp said. “So the people can’t rule unless they come and explain what it is that they are trying to see happen to the government and elect officials that will represent them well.”

In addition to being a poll worker, Asp is also a pastor. He said that this adds an extra element to why he thinks it is important to use your right to vote. 

“I think citizenship is an important right that we don’t often appreciate,” he said. “I think not everybody gets this right, so I think it’s important for people to exercise that right. … I think that citizenship is a part of loving God with all of our soul, mind and strength.”

Contact Sylvia Lorson at [email protected].

Nonpartisan volunteer

Kent resident Janine Tiffe is volunteering today as a non-partisan worker — someone who’s not affiliated with either party — with Election Protection. This national coalition provides voters with information and assistance at all stages of voting.

Although this is Tiffe’s first time working at the polls instead of just voting, she felt it was important to not only get involved with election day somehow, but to help young students at Kent State. 

“I think a lot of young people are eager to vote, but nervous, so that’s where I come in and help,” Tiffe said. “I actually helped a man earlier who didn’t know where his polling place was located, so I directed him to the right location. That’s been my day so far.”

Besides leading voters to their correct polling sites, Tiffe is also trained to diffuse tense situations, such as people trying to sway voter’s decisions or permit people from voting.

“I’m staying cautious, but this is Kent,” Tiffe said. “It’s pretty quiet out right now, so I don’t foresee that happening.”

Tiffe began the day at the Rec and then moved on to assist at the Akron polls.

Contact Ashley Johnson at [email protected].

First time voter

Kent State theater studies alumna and resident Noelle Elliott just voted for the first time at Kent’s Recreation Center and is feeling nervous about her decision, but accomplished that she made one.

“The last time I was eligible to vote was in 2016 and I didn’t take it seriously,” Elliott said. “But this time I was like, I better not take my chances; every vote counts.”

Because of the outcome of 2016’s election, Elliott said that she not only felt it was her duty to vote this year, but also encourages other people to get out there and do their part in this 2020 election. Although Elliott said that she didn’t know what she was doing or how to even vote when she showed up at the Rec today, the ballot workers guided her, calmed her nerves and made the process of voting easy. 

Elliott recounts a story of her younger brother deciding not to vote because he wasn’t educated in the various ways to cast a ballot as a way to warn people not to second-guess themselves.

“If you’re having trouble with figuring out how to vote, don’t let that stop you,” Elliot said. “If you’re old enough, ask for an absentee ballot. … There’s so many options you can take to vote. Find a way.”

Contact Ashley Johnson at [email protected].

Longtime poll worker

At Franklin Elementary School, Jim Pascoe directed voters at the door. This is Pascoe’s fifth election as a poll worker. 

“I just wanted to do my part,” Pascoe said. “(The election) is a great American tradition.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the number of mail-in ballots this year, Pascoe said he expected Election Day voting to be really slow. When he showed up in the morning cars were packed in the parking lot and he said it was really busy when the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. 

Usually the beginning, middle and end of the day are the busiest times, Pascoe said, because it’s before people head to work, are on their lunch break or are heading home for the night. 

By mid-morning, the voting area was mostly empty as people trickled in here and there without having to wait in a long line.

The hardest part of working the polls for Pascoe is the long hours starting at 5:45 a.m. until 7:30 p.m. 

“It’s grueling,” Pascoe said. 

Contact Lauren Sasala at [email protected]. 

Voting at Kent Free Library and Trinity Lutheran Church

The Kent Free Library opened its doors for citizens to vote at 6 a.m.

 Poll worker Rick Hawksley said there weren’t any unusual issues or complications with voters. He said minor issues happen like not having the right ID but he said it’s normal and happens every day.

They had a long line from 6:30 to 8 a.m. Hawksley said people only waited for less than thirty minutes.

Hawksley said it’s important to vote because it’s the way the country is run.

“If you don’t vote someone else will and you might not agree with them,” he said.

Voter Michael and his wife Irina Dezero said it is their civil duty to vote and if people want change then they should go out and vote.

“We should vote,” Michael Dezero said. “It doesn’t matter what your political affiliations are. It doesn’t matter what your interests are. I think It’s our obligation to vote, and somehow influence the process of change.”

They both decided to vote in-person because it is a family tradition.

“This is how my parents did it,” Michael Dezero said. “I would have voted by mail in ballot if I was away but I would rather do it in-person.”

Another voter Ulla Myers said, she prefers to vote in-person because it’s safer.  

“We have the right to vote and I think we should use it to know what people are thinking.” Myers said.

First time voter Allie Tricaso stopped by Trinity Lutheran Church to vote in-person because she wanted her first time to be special.

Tricaso said she wasn’t planning to vote earlier this year but after the George Floyd case she thought it was time to change.

“A lot of people are being discriminated against,” Tricaso said. “A lot of people’s human rights are being put on the lines. A lot of women, LGBTQ plus people, people of color, a lot of if you are an ally to those people, it’s important that you pass your vote towards someone who won’t take away their rights. So as an activist, as a protestor, as a human rights activist, I want to help support those people.”

Tricaso decided to vote in-person because she didn’t want her vote to get lost or get manipulated with.

“I just felt like it would be a lot safer if I went in person and voted,” Tricaso said. “And I figured if I was wearing a mask, I’d still be safe as well.”

Tricaso explained the importance of voting and said she didn’t understand how important her voice was until she was able to go out and protest for the people.

“We should be able to use our voice to help those people who need help and to feel like you’re doing something for the world,” Tricaso said. “If you want to be a change to the world, and if you want to be an ally and care for those who will possibly be discriminated against or in our case, likely will be discriminated against, then you should go vote. Because if not, you’re part of the problem.”

Contact Sara Al Harthi at [email protected].

Voting difficulty 

Matthew Bell, a second time voter, had a difficult time with the voting process at the United Church of Christ in Kent, Ohio. As a resident of Summit County, but a student at Kent State, he was unaware that he couldn’t vote at the location right off campus.

“They told me I’m not in the right zone to vote. I asked for a provisional ballot but they told me I’d have to go to a whole different location to vote,” said Bell. “It’s my second time voting, I didn’t know I had to be registered within the county itself so it’s just the learning process. I want to make an impact on society so I’m still going to go over and vote in my county.”

Bell feels as though he has been diverted away from voting due to the difficulties he’s had so far but understands the importance of sticking it out.

“I feel as if they tried to divert me and discourage me from voting, which I’ve never felt before,” said Bell. “I’m not discouraged at all though. It’s something that I have to do as a black man, so it won’t happen and I’m still going to vote.”

Although feeling discouraged by the process, poll workers were able to help Bell find a location where he would be eligible.

Contact Aidan Coyne at [email protected].

Poll workers 

Poll Workers are a massively important part of election day. Without people volunteering for this civic duty, it would be impossible to maintain our democracy. William Childers, a voting location manager for the portage county board of elections is one of these important individuals.

“We’ve been doing voting since 6:30 this morning when the polls opened and we’ve got a crew of 12 people working the three precincts here at the United Church of Christ,” said Childers. “We arrived at 5:30 for set up and we’ve been here ever since and will be here until the polls close at 7:30.”

Childers was able to give some insight on voter turnout today, which has looked different today than in previous elections.

“Turnout at the precinct level is slow compared to other presidential elections,” said Childers, who also worked the polls for the 2016 presidential election, as well as two smaller ones. “We all speculate that it’s due to the people who voted early.”

Childers also speculated that the low turnout could be due to the timing.

“This morning it was much busier right when we opened. We had a big rush and then at about 9:30 it had cooled off,” said Childers. “were just kind of at a slow moment but people will start coming out again I’m sure.”

Contact Aidan Coyne at [email protected].

First time voters and friends 

Natalie Zabrodsky and Joshua Daniel are friends and first-time voters for a presidential election. They made the decision to vote in person at the rec center instead of by mail because it was most convenient for them. The coronavirus was not a deterrent because they were able to keep their distance when casting their ballots. 

Many people are voting in the 2020 election because there are large-scale issues in America, Daniel said.

“I just feel like it’s because there’s more problems that are more prevalent,” Daniel said. “So like in 2016, like the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t around and like there’s a lot of racial injustice. So like more things need to be changed and more people want things to be changed. So that’s why more people are voting like that’s how I see it.”

Gen Z plays an important role in the voter turnout, Zabrodsky said. The younger generation has different views from baby boomers which pushes them to go out and vote. 

Zabrodsky and Daniel agreed that the approach to the coronavirus pandemic and racial injustice were issues they wanted to see change for after the election.

“Well, just for like my health, I feel like the coronavirus should be handled like a lot differently. I just think there’s more we can do,” Zabrodsky said. “And then we just need to realize that Black Lives Matter and you have to do everything to like help that.”

Contact Madisyn Woodring at [email protected].

A long day at the polls

Deb Saito’s volunteered as a poll worker for four presidential elections all at the Rec. She said poll workers play an important role in a voter’s experience.

“You need to demonstrate that you’ll do everything you can to help assist them,” Saito said.”You really want students to have a good first time voting experience because it’s a right that you hope will become a habit for the rest of their lives.”

She remembers the 2016 election being the busiest one that she’s worked and said voters at the Rec this year were steady all day, but without an overwhelming influx. She said they saw a lot of first time voters.

“It’s so fun to see the glint in their eye and their happiness,” Saito said.  

Like every polling place, the Rec offered curbside voting, but nobody utilized this option, Saito said. 

While initially concerned that some voters wouldn’t come in wearing a mask, this didn’t seem to be an issue throughout the day. 

One challenge is always confusion for which precinct voters need to go too. Since the Rec is located on campus, Saito said a lot of students will vote at the Rec when they live on campus, but then move off campus a few years later. When the next election comes, people assume their precinct is still the Rec. 

Helping voters determine where their proper precinct is important to make sure their vote can count, Saito said. 

Contact Lauren Sasala at [email protected].


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.