Portage County registered voter numbers show slight increase

Jackie Valley

New polling site, absentee ballots to reduce long lines

The number of registered voters in Portage County this year parallels figures from the 2004 presidential election – up by only 61 new registered voters.

Still, the Board of Elections is trying to ease anticipated congestion at the polls.

Lois Enlow, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections, said the county has 109,626 registered voters this year compared to 109,565 in 2004.

“We’re at the same point,” she said, adding that she expects a higher voter turnout rate this year.

“Although in 2004, we had only a 70 percent turnout, I expect about a 75 to 80 percent turnout (this year),” she said.

Ohio voter registration peaked at 8,301,303 this year, a 4 percent increase compared to 2004, according to a Plain Dealer report.

The greater likelihood of stronger voter turnout among college students, especially, prompted the board to establish a polling site at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center this year, marking the first time in more than 15 years that a polling site existed on campus, Enlow said.

“The students have been asking us to do this for a long time, and I think this is a real nice compromise,” she said. “It is a part of the campus, but yet it’s on a main street.

“If you go to the interior of campus, it’s a nightmare because there’s no parking.”

Long lines will still crop up at polling sites, Enlow said, but none will be reminiscent of Kenyon College’s “horror story” of 2004, in which people endured 10-hour waits to cast their votes.

“That shouldn’t be happening,” she said. “We probably had situations in Portage County where we had hour waits, probably near the university.”

Residents in precincts 4A and 5C, which contain mostly students and many residence halls, will vote at the Rec center. Students in the Tri-Towers residence halls vote at the United Methodist Church, near state Route 59 and the BP gas station.

To combat Election Day congestion at the Rec center, Enlow said the board has created two separate sign-ins based on last names, in addition to staffing the site with eight poll workers instead of four. Greeters will also help direct students to the correct lines.

“Most of the time, you need a proof of where you are living, so we are providing an alphabetized list by name and residence hall,” said Donna Carlton, assistant director at the Center for Student Involvement.

The increase of absentee ballots this year may also reduce traffic at the polls, Enlow said.

So far, the Portage County Board of Elections has received about 13,500 absentee ballots, and Enlow said that number could reach 15,000 by Election Day.

Contact public affairs reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].