Early-morning voters kick off the race

The four poll workers at the Fuller Shelter House stared through the windows toward Middlebury Road hoping someone would turn off and come in to vote.

It was a little after 7 a.m., and only one person had voted. It’s a slim ballot in Kent this election, as many candidates run unopposed. And as a result, workers said their 13-hour shift would probably seem prolonged by a sparse turnout.

At the Presbyterian Church on Summit Street, poll workers were coming to the realization that their “guestimates” for the day were all too realistic.

Presiding judge Bernie Christensen predicted 75 people would vote. Marilyn Hodar guessed 100. The Board of Election estimated a 36 percent turnout in Portage County.

At 7:10 a.m., Janet Rusnack, Kent Board of Education candidate, cast her ballot at the church. As her lone voting machine hummed and clicked, the workers, who brought unread magazines and recipe cards to sift through, chatted about their lives.

Rusnack was the sixth person to vote at that location an hour into election day, and she was surprised because usually she’s the first. The workers were surprised too, but for a different reason – they usually have five or six people waiting at the door before they arrive.

Back on Middlebury Road, the straight faces behind the tables got brighter when four voters walked in at one time.

One man, Phil Luzader, was on his way to work at Eaton Corp. in Aurora. He said he always votes and has come in the early morning for the last several years. It’s more convenient, he said.

Another voter, Sheri Chestnutwood, was rushing too. Though she didn’t have to be at work until 8 a.m., she said she likes to arrive at the Kent city services department early.

Nearby at Longcoy Elementary School, students have the day off while their music room becomes a polling station. By 7:30 a.m., with 12 hours to go, the bright, xylophone-filled room had seen 11 voters.

Polls are open today until 7:30 p.m. To find out where your voting location is, call the Portage County Board of Elections at (330) 297-3511.