ELECTION BLOGS: Portage hits the polls

Kent resident Margaret Chandler, a first-time voter, casts her ballot at the Church of Nazarene early this morning. BRIAN MARKS I DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

Editor’s Note: Daily Kent Stater reporters Erica Weisburn and Jenna Gerling will be blogging for KentNewsNet.com about the election. Check back throughout the day for updates.

5:30 p.m., Stow

Are voters making informed decisions? I’ve noticed throughout the day that most are. Blue-collar and white-collar voters are taking the initiative to know specifically where they stand and why. Passionate supporters of either Obama or Clinton can point out even the smallest differences between the two and tell exactly what makes them differ. And both candidates’ supporters want to give specific examples for why their candidate should win.

Some voters, however, are uniformed and unashamed of it. One Stow resident said she voted for Clinton “because she’s a woman – that’s all.” No elaboration on how she agrees with the Clinton campaign or why there is no other candidate fit to be president. She said it’s only because of Clinton’s gender.

The candidate with the majority of votes will win. Case closed. That shouldn’t suggest, however, that the quantity of votes a candidate receives is more important than the reason a candidate receives each vote. Specifically, any vote made by an informed voter should be respected. But it’s a citizen’s responsiblity to look beyond gender and race. Anything less than an educated vote is simply ignorant.

– Erica Weisburn

5:00 p.m., Stow

Trends from today’s polls have showed many dedicated Republicans are voting “D” this time – but some with hesitations.

Donna Wojcik, 38 of Stow, said she is traditionally a Republican, but voted for Obama this time because she agrees with his stances on the war in Iraq, the middle class, education and NAFTA.

“I feel that our Republican candidate has some ultraconservative views that are too conservative for my own,” Wojcik said. “He wants to stay in Iraq, and I feel that its time to get out of there. I don’t want it to turn into another Vietnam War.”

– Jenna Gerling

5:21 p.m., Stow

More families seem to be lining up and filing out of local polling locations. Mothers and fathers, with one or two tots trailing not far behind, are making the after-work rush to the polls. Kids of all ages cling to their parents’ free hands, walk up to the electronic and paper polls with them and watch them vote.

For some parents, it’s just convenience, but for others, like Michelle Davids, 35 of Stow, it’s a learning experience.

“I want them to know about what their civic duties are, that they should be voting,” Davids said. “It’s a way to express your beliefs and political views.”

Davids said she discusses politics with her children because she has a 6-year-old who has a lot of questions about the candidates and the issues. She said they discuss some parts of politics at his elementary school, which leaves him with questions he brings home.

“He wants to know if we don’t have a presidential election, then why do we vote,” she said. “I explained to him we have issues that we need to vote on as well.”

Davids said she voted for Huckabee because she thinks his views are most closely aligned to hers in terms of taxes, government agencies, morals and religion.

– Jenna Gerling

2:45 p.m., Franklin Township

Michelle Thomas, 20, of Kent voted in her first presidential primary today. She didn’t vote for John McCain in today’s primary and won’t in November, either.

“He sounds so much like George Bush,” she said. Thomas said she doesn’t want someone who will continue the same agenda as our current president.

“I’ve heard so many people that say they are going to give him their vote because they don’t want a black guy or woman as president,” she said. “Why would I fuel that fire of ignorance and intolerance?”

Hillary Clinton also doesn’t have her support. Thomas said each time Clinton was called out on things she promised and failed at, she dodged the questions.

So, Thomas is voting for Barack Obama.

He “makes education and intelligence a priority in this county,” she said. She thinks that’s a priority President Bush isn’t addressing.

– Erica Weisburn

2:00 p.m., Ravenna, Barack Obama Headquarters

Now that Hillary Clinton’s campaigners have had a chance to speak, I visited Barack Obama’s headquarters to hear what they had to say.

On the other side of the Democratic push, volunteer campaigner Evangeline Newton, 59, of Kent, spoke about her beliefs as a lifelong Democrat.

“If Hillary wins the primaries, I won’t vote for her,” she said. “Its not enough for me if they’re both Democrats. I’m not saying others shouldn’t vote for Hillary, I just have serious issues with her.

“Clinton’s my generation. I’m one of those,” she said while pointing to a sign that read “OWL: Old White Ladies for Obama.”

Newton said she thinks Clinton will win Ohio, but continues the push for Obama. Moving away from the Democratic views, she commented on McCain’s stance in the election and said she would never vote for him either.

“McCain was born on a military base, that’s his strength,” she said. “He’s going to keep us in Iraq. The draft will be back, and it will be the ’60s all over again.”

When visited, the Republican headquarters in Ravenna was closed, and campaigners could not be reached for comment.

– Jenna Gerling

2 p.m., Ravenna

A record number turnout is not expected today – at least that’s the word from Lois Enlow, director of the Portage County Board of Elections. The high number of early voters accounts for this, Enlow said.

Voters aren’t standing in long lines or waiting more than 10 minutes to cast their ballots.

Because 4,000 of the 100,000 voters registered in Portage County have voted early, Enlow and poll workers agree that things have been “steady.” With the exception of some slight paper work issues, all is quiet. Enlow said she’s seen bigger turnouts in past presidential primaries.

The polls close at 7:30 p.m., but she said no one in line will be turned away. As far as official totals go, the numbers should be calculated around midnight, a few hours later than usual.

– Erica Weisburn

11:30 a.m., Ravenna

The Portage County Democrats are unsure whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama will be the official nominee, but they feel confident a Democrat will win in November.

“Both of them bring people who are simply fed up with what is happening in the country today,” said coordinator Sandy Halem, 63.

Halem said she would be satisfied with either candidate.

She does think there will be people who passionately support either Clinton or Obama and won’t vote for another Democrat if their candidate doesn’t make it through the primaries, she said.

“I think those people don’t understand what being a Democrat is about. They are more perhaps involved in either Hillary or Obama as personalities,” Halem said.

Halem doesn’t know whether Ohio will officially decide the Democratic nominee, but said either way, “we are going to be recruiting people who want to change who is in the White House not just the name of the person in the White House.”

– Erica Weisburn

11:00 a.m., Ravenna, Hillary Clinton Headquarters

Passionate views on Clinton’s campaign and her shot at the presidency were expressed at the

Senator’s headquarters today by campaigners Tina Gavin, 47, of Kent, Susan Petersen, 56,

and her daughter Julie Pace-Williamson, 37, both of Naperville, Illinois.

Petersen and Pace-Williamson, both from Barack Obama’s state, came all the way to Ohio to

help Clinton’s campaign.

“(Obama) is a good guy, but he could be the candidate in four years, eight years – he’s too

new,” Petersen said. “If (Clinton) comes in, she knows the people she would have in her

cabinet. He doesn’t. He would have to contact Kennedy and ask who would be a good guy

for him. She knows these people – she’s known them for 20 years.”

As for having a woman as president, the campaigners believed other countries would take to it very well.

“England has had Margaret Thatcher, other countries who don’t lead us in rights have had

women for a long time,” Petersen said. “Our country is behind in this area. They know and

respect the Clintons.

“The whole business about Monica Lewinski, they thought we as a populous were more ridiculous than Clinton was because other countries don’t focus as much on the personal lives of their leaders as we do.”

– Jenna Gerling

10:15 a.m., Brady Lake

During the past four hours, 50 Brady Lake residents have voted, a surprisingly high number considering the village’s small population, said poll worker Marie Osborne, 63, of Brady Lake.

Osborne said she thinks the national issues, not the local ones, are bringing people to the polls.

No matter the weather conditions, “the rain will never keep a Democrat home,” Osborne said. First time voter Chelsea Bush, 19, of Brady Lake didn’t let the freezing rain ruin her experience.

When making the decision between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Bush said “it came down to the nit-picky things.”

On issues such as education and the war in Iraq, “I just feel it would be better for Hillary to be our president,” Bush said.

The four poll workers at the village hall started their shift at 5:45 a.m. and are expecting to leave an hour after the polls close at 7:30 p.m. To pass the time, the women have provided themselves with a buffet-style picnic, including homemade potato salad.

“We are all diabetic,” Osborne said. “So we need to eat at least every few hours, anyway.”

– Erica Weisburn

9:00 a.m., Kent

Poll volunteer Polly Tucker said so far, 48 people have filed into Theodore Roosevelt High School to vote, which is more people already than those who voted in the last election in November.

“It’s been very brisk,” she said. “We had a line up out the door already at 6:30 a.m.”

Of those who voted, a clear separation has formed between younger and older voters.

Jonathan Geihsler, 23 of Kent, said he voted for Obama for several reasons: One, being our divided nation together.

“I just think he’s going to be the one who can bring everyone together better than Senator Clinton, and I think he has the best vision for our country.”

Others, like Jerry N. Stuver, 78 of Kent, said he believes someone like Mike Hucakbee will be the best person for the job because he will be able to provide a more stable economy.

– Jenna Gerling

7:53 a.m, Kent

Change is the common theme this morning among some Kent residents. The nation’s economy and the war in Iraq are concerns two Barack Obama supporters share, and Jim Lovelece, 44, of Kent said he feels Obama is the best candidate to bring change to these issues. Lovelece said local ballots also brought him out to the polls.

“I have a personal interest in Issue 2 because I know the person who owns Riverside,” he said. If passed, Issue 2 would allow Riverside Wine and Imports to sell beer, wine and mixed beverages on Sundays.

Joanne Black, 29, of Kent said health care is also important. “He represents a good possible future change for America, and it is something we definitely need right now.” She said she thinks Hillary Clinton and Obama offer similar plans, but more people will believe in Obama.

– Erica Weisburn

7:00 a.m., Kent

One or two voters wander in and out of polls early this morning as the sun slowly rises and the cold rain falls.

Some believe today’s weather may be a potential problem for voters today as the rain threatens to freeze. However, volunteers at local polling locations expected the weather to be much worse than it is – expecting an inch of ice. But don’t fret, Obama and Hillary have volunteers ready to come and pick you up if you have no way of getting to polling locations.

If you’re voting for Hillary, call 877-447-2408. For Obama, call 866-675-2008.

– Jenna Gerling

6:45 a.m., Kent

Meteorologists predicted freezing rain to be a problem this morning for voters, but so far we’ve seen steady rain. Only a few cars occupy the American Legion Post on Mogadore Road to cast ballots before their morning commutes. Poll worker Tom Watts, 66, of Kent, said three people have voted since the polls opened at 6:30 a.m.

“The weather might be an issues later,” he said. Other than that, he said he believes the day will be smooth despite the record numbers expected to come out to the polls. Dan Hayes, 54 of Kent, made one of the first votes for Hillary. He said he thinks Obama is “a good man,” but “Hillary has a better health care plan.”

– Erica Weisburn