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Government and Politics

Early voting, long lines
Bottleneck in Summit County 
This story is part of a special series.

Mark Urycki
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

It was a long cold wait for voters in Summit County today (Mon) trying to cast their ballots early.

High turnout over the last few days has led to a bottleneck of people waiting to get into the one voting room at the county board of elections.   WKSU’s Mark Urycki reports some Democrats argue it didn’t have to be this difficult.

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Like a group of commiserating Browns fans, the long snake of people standing outside the Summit County Board of Elections was telling jokes and trying to stay positive.  With temperatures in the 30’s and waiting times of 2 ½ to 3 hours, a few gave up and went home. But most stuck it out.   Deputy Elections Director  Kim Zurz says it was even a little worse on Sunday

“We had a lot that were frustrated at this particular facility because they haven’t been able to find parking and they’ve had to wait and circle many many times.    There’s not a lot of public parking obviously around here.”

Despite the crowd, Zurz expects fewer early, in-person votes than four years ago.

”It’s down in persons because we haven’t had as many days – I think you’re hearing that all over the country where it’s been reduced.  And we’re not having as many hours either so with our reduction in hours and our number of  days we are certainly seeing less.   We are seeing an increase in the numbers by mail.” 

Boards of Elections around the state were reporting big crowds and long lines. But Summit County had some special issues. Democrats pushed hard for people to vote early after Republicans decided to cut the number of polling places in the county on Election Day from 196 down to 151. 

“It was attire vote by our board and it was broken by the Secretary of State.  The reason at the time was to decreased costs for us by larger locations and less numbers, less set-up, less outside costs.  The Democrat board members did not agree with that and wanted to wait till next year and not in the middle of a presidential but…”

Why not use the gigantic Job Source Center you used in 2008?

“Well again that was a tie vote the Democrats lost.   We did not have the Job center as an option because something else is there.   The Democrats did offer up a different facility that was a very large facility that used to be a former HH Gregg building.  It had a lot of parking there.  The Republicans offered up the 2nd floor of the Beacon Journal building or here.  And the Secretary of State weighed in and broke the tie and orde4red us to have the election here.  This is the only early vote location in Summit County.”

Restricted on purpose?  

Democrats statewide have argued that Republicans are restricting voting in cities because it benefits GOP candidates.  Zurz is a Democrat working for the Summit County elections board  but stays out of it.   But one of the board’s Democratic  members, Wayne Jones, is not so reticent. He says the GOP wants to suppress Democratic voters.

“No question it was.  The fact of the matter is if we were at the Job Center these people would all be inside and we wouldn’t have them standing out in the cold and we’d be able to process them more quickly. “

Republicans insist the cash-strapped county simply doesn’t have the money (for what?) this year. 

Early, in-person voting ended at 2 p.m. Thoughout the day, as many as 400 people stood in line. And at the cutoff hour, a sheriff’s deputy stepped into the end of the line and everyone up to that point was allowed to vote.  Kim Zurz expects 90 thousand people will vote early in Summit County, about one fourth of all the registered voters.  She expects lines throughout Election Day.

Regular Election Day polling hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Ohio has about 7.7 million voters, and a third or more of them are expected to have voted early.

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