Kent poll workers seeing ‘steady’ turnout early in the day

Inside+the+Rec+Center+polling+center+early+in+the+day.

Emma Andrus

Inside the Rec Center polling center early in the day.

Matthew Mergen, TV2 Reporter

Emma Andrus, Editor-in-Chief

Throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, poll workers at the Kent State Recreation and Wellness Center said they’ve seen a “steady” turnout of voters, estimating that nearly 70 voters have come through as of 11:30 a.m.

“It probably is on par with what we’ve gotten before in other gubernatorial races,” said Deb Saito, a poll worker who has worked in more than a decade’s worth of elections. “There’ll probably be more late in the afternoon, into the evening.”

Voter voices

Among the voters visiting the polls are Kent State students Leanna Wally and Shania Alley.

“I just think it’s important that we get a say in what we’re doing, and our voice needs to be heard and change needs to be made,” Wally said. “Coming out and voting is the best way to do that, in my opinion. Considering that we actually have a say now, considering that a couple years ago we didn’t.”

Alley said they were motivated to vote by issues such as abortion rights and lowering marijuana restrictions.

“Our rights might be taken away, so might as well,” Alley said.

Both Wally and Alley said they feel it’s important for people to vote.

“It’s their voice at the end of [the] day,” Wally said. “Like, if you don’t vote, and you’re complaining about what’s going on in the world … that’s on you.”

Debbie Smeiles is a nurse and the wife of former Portage County Commissioner, Chris Smeiles. She arrived at the Rec Center ready to work out sporting her “I Voted” sticker from voting earlier in the morning.

“I live on the north side of Kent and was determined to vote, wanted to vote on Election Day just because I always like voting on Election Day. It’s more exciting,” Smeiles said.

Smeiles said she is hopeful young voters will come out to the polls this year.

“I hope that they understand how serious a position, and how precarious and how fragile our democracy is right now. It scares me,” she said. “So, I’m pinning my hopes on a few of us in the older generation that get it and a lot of young people.”

Smeiles said she relies on her own research, looking at multiple sources to make sure she gets “a balanced view.” Through her husband’s work in politics, she said she better understands the process.

Coming into Election Day, she had one quote in mind:

“I heard a comment last evening that someone said: ‘We cannot let our daughters lose something that our grandmothers fought for, for us,’” she said.

What to bring to the polls

When voters visit the polls, they are asked to provide a government-issued ID or utility bill, Saito said. Poll workers then verify that they’re registered to vote.

“Oftentimes, students have a required step, especially if they’re out of state,” Saito said. This includes bringing a utility bill with an address indicative of voters’ Kent residency.

“If they’re not registered to vote, they still can vote,” Saito said. “You want people to vote, and they can vote provisionally.”

Forget a utility bill? End up at the wrong polling place? Here’s how volunteers can help.

Connor Compton, a worker at the Ohio Democratic Party, stands outside Kent State’s Recreation and Wellness Center for students who need a “proof of residence” document printed out. Compton said he would be there all day until the polls close. (Kaitlyn Finchler)

Workers from the Ohio Democratic Party will be tabling outside the Rec Center all day, providing voters with sample ballots and printing utility bills on-site.

“A lot of students either don’t know that or forget to bring a utility bill,” said Connor Compton, who works for the Ohio Democratic Party. “So I’m here helping to print it out, if they get turned away because they don’t have that, and making sure everyone can vote if they are eligible.”

So far, Compton estimates he’s printed nearly 10 utility bills for students in need.

“I think it’s going to pick up,” he said. “I think more people are going to be voting, noon or later. It seems to be a decent percentage.”

Compton and other representatives will continue to offer sample ballots and print utility bills until 7:30 p.m. when Ohio polls close.

For Kent State students who find themselves going to the wrong polling location, the “Vote Cab” can help.

The Vote Cab is a service provided by a group of seven Kent residents and volunteers, including Iris Meltzer, the president of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.

From noon until 7 p.m., the cab will transport students to other Kent polling locations or to the Portage County Board of Elections if needed. The vehicle will be marked with a “Vote Cab” sign taped to the inside of the windshield.

Throughout the day, a group of seven Kent residents are shuttling students who arrive at the incorrect polling location in their “Vote Cab.” (Kaitlyn Finchler)

Bob Springer, a former College of Communication and Information advisor, is helping lead the effort.

His wife, Barb, started the effort in 2008 under the name “Obama Mamas.”

“We just thought we’d continue it, because everybody should vote,” Springer said. “It’s not your fault if you end up here [the Rec Center], and you’re supposed to be at the Methodist church, especially first time voters, because they’ve never voted before.”

Springer said his passion for young voters is what helped inspire him to continue the effort.

“Voting is important. To do this in a majority of countries in the world, you’d get arrested just for doing this,” Springer said, gesturing to the table for the Ohio Democratic Party. “It’s the American franchise.”

Emma Andrus is editor-in-chief. Contact her at [email protected]