Voting results received slowly

Rebekah Maple

The Portage County election results were posted just before midnight Tuesday – finally.

Some expected to know the results more quickly, but they had to wait it out. The Portage County Board of Elections posted results on its Web site three times throughout the night beginning around 9 p.m.

Lois Enlow, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said contrary to popular belief, the results did not take long to post, and the time it took was an “absolutely normal thing.” She said after the poll workers report with their memory cards, it takes more than two hours to upload them.

“It’s not an instant thing,” she said. “If you look at the other counties around Ohio, they don’t get their results in at 10 p.m.”

Arch Kimbrew, director of the Geauga County Board of Elections, said the board had its final unofficial election results posted by 9:14 p.m. With 96 precincts total, Geauga has 35 fewer than Portage, but posted them approximately two hours sooner.

Geauga County uses paper ballots as opposed to Portage’s electronic voting system. Kimbrew said the 425 poll workers in the county tabulate the ballots throughout the day, so by the end of the day, there are much fewer to count. He said it’s instantaneous.

“We like paper,” he said. “We’ve been voting on paper since 1993.”

Enlow said if Portage County used punch cards, a voting system that has been replaced by paper ballots and electronic voting, they could have counted votes faster, but for their current system, the time it took to post results was typical. She said there are 580 machines with their own memory cards, so it takes time to count.

“With punch cards, it’s just zing, zing, zing,” Enlow said. “It may not be as accurate, but it’s much quicker. The electronic voting is much more accurate.”

Jeanette Mullane, director of the Stark County Board of Elections said their final unofficial election results were posted at 1 a.m. They posted seven times throughout the night and updated the results every 45 minutes. Stark used electronic voting as well.

“Even during the primary we were done around 12 or 1 o’clock,” Mullane said. “I think the public thinks it would be quicker to use electronic voting. With the electronic equipment, there’s no way we would have been done earlier.”

Stark County has 364 precincts, and its board of elections uploaded 1,400 memory cards before they could post the final results.

Enlow said the Portage County Board of Elections had approximately 20 people working Election Night, and there was a total of 525 poll workers throughout the county. She said they had to wait for workers from each polling location to bring their results.

“Portage County is really a large county as far as land area goes,” she said. “We’ve got people that are 30 minutes away from us.”

Not only did they have to wait for the poll workers to arrive in Ravenna, but they also had to wait for them to balance their books at the polls beforehand. Enlow said the process of closing down the machines, gathering all the memory cards and getting the supplies takes a half hour minimum.

On the days after the election, all three of the counties audit the books from the polls. Enlow said the poll book and the signature book are the two that are checked. The signature book is where voters’ identification is recorded and where they sign their names. A person’s name is checked off in the poll book so it can be crosschecked with the signature book.

Payroll for the poll workers is also calculated on the days after the election. Enlow and Kimbrew do not have the figures yet, but Enlow said the extra workers are typical of every election.

Voter turnout in Portage County was 40 percent this year. Enlow said it was higher than usual in an odd-year election. Kimbrew said Geauga County voter turnout was 50 percent this year, compared to 37 percent in 2007. Mullane said Stark had a 39.21 percent voter turnout.

Portage and Stark County’s official results will be available Nov. 24, and Geauga County’s will be posted Nov. 20.

Contact public affairs reporter Rebekah Maple at [email protected].