Students wait in lines to vote early

Kelly Pickerel

Nearly 400 ballots cast

Employees rushing in on their lunch hour and students using their break between classes to vote early at the Portage County Board of Elections in Ravenna were faced with longer lines then they anticipated yesterday.

Lois Enlow, deputy director of the board, said the lines had been holding steady at an hour-and-a-half wait all day.

Still some chose to stay the 90 minutes to sidestep what they assume to be longer lines on Tuesday.

Enlow said that the early voting lines have increased in size every day. On Wednesday, 386 people passed through the doors.

“The lunch-hour is really busy, but it’s actually been busy all day,” she said. “We don’t have any downtime anymore.”

Since Oct. 1, the board has extended its office hours an additional hour, staying open until 5:30 p.m. Enlow said they will allow anyone still in line at 5:30 p.m. to stay and vote. This week, the last voter has finished up between 6:30 and 7 p.m., providing a long workday for the poll workers.

“I’m voting early so I don’t have to wait hours on Election Day,” said Nicole Thomas, a junior applied communications major.

Linda Myers of Streetsboro said she’s witnessed long lines on Election Day before.

“When it was Bush-Kerry (in 2004), I was in line for two hours,” she said. “I think a lot of this has to do with Democrats making sure their votes count.”

David Steinberg, freshman electronic media production major, said his reasoning for voting early was strategic.

“Honestly, I’m hoping to clear up lines on actual voting day so more can get their votes in,” he said. “I worry about people who work all day and then make it here at the last minute.”

As of Wednesday, Enlow said 4,076 Portage County residents have voted in the office, and 12,989 absentee ballots have been mailed out, while 8,370 have been returned.

“That’s really pretty good,” Enlow said of the returned absentee ballots. “The real problem is the ones coming in now through Saturday, and the out-of-states are pretty tough to get back.”

Still, some chose to skip the absentee ballots and mingle with other early voters in the long lines.

Karen Grund of Brimfield said she was voting early because a chronic illness has prevented her from voting in previous elections.

“I’ve been in the hospital over Election Day before,” she said. “I’m healthy today.”

Carla Rothacker of Streetsboro said she came to vote early because she hopes to work the polls on Nov. 4, leaving no free time for her to vote.

“They’re anticipating not enough workers,” she said. “I’m hoping they pick me to be a Houdini for Obama’s campaign and get people out to the polls.”

Enlow said this is the first year the lines have been this long, and she expects them to be even longer in the few days left before Tuesday.

“The fact that you can vote absentee in Ohio without any excuse (changes things),” she said. “This is the first presidential election where that’s been the case.”

Contact public affairs reporter Kelly Pickerel at [email protected].