It’s our turn

Sasha Parker

40,000+ expected at Portage polls today

Voters check in to vote at the Church of the Nazarene in Kent early this morning. BRIAN MARKS I DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Print out this guide for the election.

Portage County election officials said they are ready for the more than 40,000 voters expected to vote in today’s primary.

“In past primary elections, we’ve had about a 30-to-35 percent turnout,” said Lois Enlow, deputy director of the Portage County Board of Elections. “This year, we’re expecting 40 percent based on the fact that this is an open race.”

Although the number of registered voters in Portage County has decreased over the last four years, based on past voting trends, Enlow said voter turnout has increased because there is no incumbent candidate.

To prepare for the increase in voter turnout, Portage County election officials ordered more ballots and hired more polling staff.

“No matter what, we have to pick a new president to lead our country. People tend to come out in greater numbers because the fate of the nation is up for grabs,” Enlow said.

While primary turnout in Ohio is typically abysmal, more voters have voted early in this election than ever before. Early voting, technically called absentee voting, officially started Feb. 8. In areas such as Lucas County near Toledo, voters have turned out in record-breaking numbers.

Dan Pilrose, deputy director for the Lucas County Board of Elections, said more than 700 people voted Saturday during the five and a half hours the polls were open, and more than 500 showed up Friday. “Every day, it’s been increasing,” he said, and other counties have had similar influxes.

Here in Portage County, where there are 101,026 registered voters, 4,375 requested absentee ballots. As of Sunday, 3,275 voters had cast their ballots either by mail or in person, Enlow said.

Enlow said she expects a jump in the number of registered voters once the candidates are decided on. Her expectations are reflective of a national trend that shows more voters turning out to vote in the general elections than in primaries.

According to census data, 33 percent of registered Ohio voters turned out in the 2004 presidential primary — though an enormous 72 percent voted in the general election. In 2006, 24 percent voted in the primary, with 56 percent turning out to elect the governor and a host of other statewide officials.

Contact public affairs reporter Sasha Parker at [email protected].