Polls do not influence absentee voters

Tyler McIntosh

Some wait three hours to vote, Ohio reports record early voting

Voters stand outside the Board of Elections in Ravenna yesterday. One voter said she waited in line for three hours. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

It’s almost the end of election season, and it’s looking like the next president of the United States could be decided by the Buckeye State.

Ohio has earned the term “battleground state” with both candidates trading places in state polls while making numerous stops in Ohio in an effort to win the all-important 20 electoral votes that could decide the election. Since Ohio became a state in 1803, the candidate who has won its electoral votes has gone on to win the election 41 of 51 times.

Barack Obama is holding a 3.8 point lead (49.0-45.2) over John McCain in Ohio, according to RealClearPolitics.com’s RCP Average, a collection of various polls across Ohio that is then averaged. The national RCP Average shows Obama with a 7.5 point lead (51.7-44.2).

However, those who expect the polls to accurately reflect how anyone votes would be mistaken. The majority of people standing outside the Board of Elections to get their early vote in yesterday said no poll would dictate when or how they voted.

“I voted early to beat the Tuesday rush,” said Kent State student Kiera Walls, who waited three hours to vote. “Between class and work I really do not have a lot of time and I haven’t really paid attention to the polls for the same reasons.”

Some did appreciate that the polls let them know what to expect come tonight.

“I pay attention to the polls somewhat,” Diane Whittington said. “You are able to see the general trends and those are really the only numbers any of us have.”

Ohio has proven to be a toss-up state. Since the 1900 election, Republican candidates have won the state 16 times while Democratic candidates have taken the state on 11 occasions.

A recent CNN report stated that 23,298,564 Americans have already voted thanks to absentee and early voting. Thirty two states, including Ohio, permit residents to vote in person early without having to provide an excuse. Fourteen others allow those with excuses to vote in person before Nov. 4.

Washington, Rhode Island, Oregon and Maryland do not offer any type of in-person early voting. All 50 states allow some sort of absentee voting by mail.

“It’s nice just to have the opportunity to and choice of when to vote,” Mia Hunts said. “I may not vote today, but it’s nice to know I could.”

Counties across Ohio are reporting record turnouts of early voters. Cuyahoga County and Franklin County, the two most populated counties in the state, have combined for 459,872 early votes alone. Portage County is also experiencing a high voter turnout before Nov. 4.

Lois Enlow, the Deputy Director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said as of Oct. 29 4,706 people have taken advantage of early voting to cast their ballots. In addition to those early voters, 8,370 of the 12,989 absentee ballots that were sent out had already been returned.

If history repeats itself in Portage County, voters can expect to see Obama get the majority of the popular vote in Portage County. In 2004, Democrat John Kerry garnered 40,674 votes while Republican George W. Bush received 35,583 votes.

Portage County residents with questions about the election process can call the Portage County Board of Elections at 330-297-3511, or visit their Web site at www.co.portage.oh.us/election/index.html. The site contains information on voting requirements, polling locations and instructions on how to operate voting machines. Polling locations will open 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Contact public affairs reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].