Elections board director retires

Kyle Roerink

Lois Enlow enjoys final election day

Nov. 3 was Lois Enlow’s last Election Day as deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections. It was no different than any other she’d been a part of for the past 12 years. She arrived at her office at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t get home until after midnight.

Enlow retired Nov. 30. She said Election Day will always get her excited because it’s such a hectic day.

“Phones were ringing off the hook all morning,” she said. “You always have people calling saying that their building isn’t open yet. And I just say, ‘Well, it’s not supposed to be open for another 10 minutes — so just wait it out.'”

Amid the incessant phone calls, Enlow and the other employees at the board of elections make sure the voting taking place in Portage County runs smoothly.

It’s the board’s responsibility to make sure the electronic voting machines are working, poll workers are where they are supposed to be and all votes are accounted for at the end of the evening.

Another one of the board’s responsibilities is to make sure candidates act appropriately on Election Day.

Just like any other Election Day, Enlow received reports that candidates were campaigning in their districts, and she wanted to make sure no one was breaking any rules.

“We took a little trip — a drive around town,” she said, “and just made sure everybody was where they were supposed to be.”

The polls closed at 7:30 p.m. on election night, and the board received its first round of collected ballots by 7:45 p.m. The last batch didn’t come in until 10:30 p.m. But the work wasn’t done. The board needs to account for every vote cast, whether it was provisional, absentee or collected from one of the countywide voting polls, before the members can go home.

She said it takes two and a half hours to upload all the memory cards from the electronic voting machines and scan the optical scan ballots. The electronic machines were implemented in 2005 in what Enlow called a “huge transition.” She said most people would think that the electronic voting method would be easier “but it’s not.”

Tina Whitmore, a clerk at the board of elections, said the machines “have changed all of our lives.”

With a big smile on her face, she said she will miss Enlow because “she’s fun to pick on” because of her “electronic challenges” with the new machines.

Throughout the office, Enlow is also known for her comic relief.

Linda Marcial, director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said on Election Day she was out checking the voting centers in Portage County when she got a call from Enlow.

“She called and said ‘You better make a stop because if you don’t there’s going to be mutiny at one of our polling centers,'” Marcial said. “‘And I don’t want to have that sinking ship on my last election.'”

Members of a political party weren’t banding together for an uprising, though. The heater was broken at one of the poll centers and the volunteers were freezing, Marcial said.

“I need to retire because I am old,” Enlow said with a chuckle. “I’ve been working in the public system for 30 years. It’s time for me to do things that I want to do.”

She has her heart set on volunteering at the County Clothing Center, local schools and hospitals. But most importantly she wants to spend more time with her three granddaughters, two sons and her husband, Judge John Enlow of the Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Enlow was born in New York City and grew up in New Jersey. She moved to Ohio when she was eight and originally went to college at Ohio University. After two years there, she transferred to Kent State and graduated with a degree in home economic education.

She taught at Ravenna High School for more than 15 years before she decided to take on her position at the board of elections. But she always had a penchant for politics.

A long-time Republican, Enlow campaigned for George Voinovich when he ran for mayor, governor and senator. She’s been on the central committee for the Republican Party for more than 30 years and was chair of the Republican Party in Portage County.

Her office is decorated with numerous stuffed-animal elephants and other keepsakes indicative of the GOP. But when talking to Enlow, you would never know what party she represents.

“That’s the history of the office here in Portage County, as far back as it goes under the directorship and leadership of the board,” Marcial said. “You may know what party people side with here. But it has never interfered in any way, shape or form. And this is the most political place there can be.”

Enlow said Republicans are the minority group in Portage County. But she said the beauty of the board of elections is the equality in the office. There are three Republican clerks and three Democrat clerks. The position of director depends on who sits in the office of the secretary of state.

Enlow sat as director from her arrival in 1997 to 2008. Marcial took over as director when Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, became secretary of state, which is why Enlow was the deputy director.

“We have a job to do,” Enlow said. “And that’s put on elections — not to play politics.”

Enlow’s replacement is Faith Lyon. She’s worked as a clerk at the board of elections since 2006, and said she will miss Enlow dearly.

“She’s the type of boss you want to have,” Lyon said. “I hope I can live up to her.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kyle Roerink at [email protected].