Voting system goes over smoothly

Adam Milasincic

Voters fill out their provisional ballots at the Portage County Board of Elections Tuesday evening minutes before the polls closed. BRIAN MARKS | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

Despite some pre-election qualms about the integrity of Ohio’s new electronic voting machines, balloting was mostly smooth across the state and “pretty routine” in Portage County Tuesday, said Lois Enlow, Portage County Board of Elections director.

“(The machines) worked very well,” Enlow said. “You have your normal issues. You’ve got your paper jams.. One thing we really need to educate the public about is that it is a touch-screen machine. That means you touch it; you don’t put your finger on it or hold it in place, and you don’t poke at it all the time.”

In Kent, a higher-than-normal number of provisional ballots indicated a substantial student turnout, Enlow said. Provisional ballots are cast when a voter’s current address doesn’t match the one election officials have on file.

After officials verify the addresses in question, the votes are counted later as part of the county’s official tally. Enlow predicted that process would occur on Nov. 28.

At the United Methodist Church on East Main Street, Andrew Hazlett, senior justice studies major, was told to cast a provisional ballot reflecting his new address. He said the process was easy.

“I had to come here after going to Ravenna to find out where I voted,” Hazlett said. “I voted on paper; basically, my vote gets counted last. It took me about 20 minutes worth of driving and four minutes worth of driving. It didn’t take me that long.”

Countywide voter turnout reached 53 percent, a significant increase over the 45 percent of voters who headed to the polls for the last mid-term election in 2002, Enlow said. She reported steady streams of voters at most Portage County precincts and said the longest waiting time locally was about 25 minutes – far shorter than the two-and-a-half-hour line recorded at one poll in Akron.

Enlow said there were a lot of people who wanted to read the issues, and this caused some voters to stay in the booth for 15 minutes or more.

In Cuyahoga County, elections proceeded with fewer snags than in May’s primary, but a federal judge stepped in to order extended voting hours at 16 polling stations there.

Some election officials had also feared the impact of a new state law requiring voters to show photo identification. There were few reports of troubles statewide, although U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, a Cincinnati Republican, was turned away from the polls when the identification he showed did not match his registered voter address.

Locally, the ID requirement sparked some rolled eyes and snide comments, but most voters came prepared, Enlow said.

“Did we have people get mad? Yeah,” she said. “But that’s the law. I can’t say that we’re only going to enforce it for certain people.”

One man at the United Methodist Church brought a birth certificate, Social Security card and passport but refused to present a legally acceptable form of ID – apparently to protest the new law, said election inspector Jan Rusnack.

“It’s somebody who knew what the rules were, but he chose not to do it, so we had him vote provisional,” she said.

Chester Triplett, a Kent State psychology major, said he was pleased with both touch-screen voting and the identification law.

“I like that,” he said. “I think it’s important to make sure you can verify you are who you say you are and who’s voting.”

Triplett, who is legally blind, said election officials were very helpful in assisting him with the machines. He said the new procedures are likely to stamp out fraud and make voting more user-friendly.

“I wish more people placed the importance on voting,” he said. “Actually, I didn’t do that a lot in my past, but recently I’ve been trying to place more importance on voting because there’s a lot of countries in the world that don’t have the freedoms that we do.”

Contact public affairs reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected].