June 28, 2016

Mostly cloudy

Early voting far surpasses 2008’s total; lighter Election Day turnout expected

SHEFFIELD TWP. — Nearly an hour after early voting closed on Monday, a line of people, who arrived before the 2 p.m. cutoff, stood outside under the cloudy sky waiting to cast their ballots at the Lorain County Board of Elections.

Early voting reached historic heights in Lorain County this year, with 18,689 voters hitting the polls early for in-person voting. That’s well above the 14,367 voters who voted early in person in 2008.

The county also received 34,646 requests for mail-in ballots and has gotten 29,162 of those back so far, elections board Director Paul Adams said Monday.

In 2008, a total of 148,218 voters, or 72.5 percent, out of the county’s 204,400 registered voters cast ballots.

This year, Adams said he actually anticipates a smaller turnout of around 68 percent of the county’s 212,372 registered voters.

Adams said his prediction is based on there appearing to be less enthusiasm for the candidates than there was in 2008.

Ohio has been the center of the political universe in the final stretch of the campaign as Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney have vied to win over enough Ohioans to claim the state’s 18 Electoral College votes. A candidate needs to win a total of 270 electoral votes in order to carry the presidency.

Lorain County, which traditionally backs the Democratic presidential candidate, has seen visits from Romney, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Their surrogates also have made numerous stops here to court voters.

For the most part, the candidates have done all they can do, although supporters will stand outside polling locations across the county today urging voters to back not just the presidential contender of their choice, but also local candidates and issues. The campaigns will also continue trying to motivate supporters to head to the polls through their respective get-out-the-vote efforts.

What happens inside the county’s polling locations will be closely scrutinized and both Democrats and Republicans said Monday they each had roughly 40 lawyers and poll monitors who plan to be in place to keep an eye out for irregularities. Attorneys for both sides are also prepared to rush to the courthouse and file lawsuits if need be.

“We’re always prepared, that’s the way to keep elections honorable for both sides,” said Lorain County Republican Party Chairwoman Helen Hurst, who also sits on the elections board.

Lorain County Democratic Party Chairman Anthony Giardini, another elections board member, said he’s hopeful things will go smoothly in the county.

“I don’t want any problems in Lorain County, but you never know,” he said.

Assistant County Prosecutor Gerald Innes, who represents the elections board, said he and his staff will be monitoring the election closely throughout the day and will be prepared to deal with any legal challenges that arise.

He said one issue that could arise is requests for a judge to order the polls to remain open past the scheduled 7:30 p.m. closing time.

Giardini said there also could be problems based on Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s directive that incomplete provisional ballots shouldn’t be counted and that voters, not elections officials, are responsible for making sure the forms are properly filled out. That issue is already the subject of an ongoing lawsuit against Husted.

Provisional ballots aren’t counted in the state until at least 10 days after the election.

“Why would we invite someone to make mistakes?” Giardini said.

In addition to partisan poll watchers, Adams said the U.S. Department of Justice plans to have roughly 35 of its own election monitors scattered around the county’s polling places to ensure the elections board is complying with an agreement to provide equal ballot access for Spanish-speaking voters.

Adams warned that there could be long lines today in some places, particularly in Avon, Elyria and Wellington, where a significant number of issues, some of them quite lengthy, will be on the ballot. He urged voters to review the ballot language on the election board’s website before coming in to vote to speed lines in voting locations in those communities.

Voting information

  • Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. today.
  • Voters who want to turn in ballots mailed to their homes must do so at the Lorain County Board of Elections, 1985 North Ridge Road, Sheffield Township. Mailed ballots will not be accepted at polling locations.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

About Brad Dicken

Brad Dicken is the senior writer for the Chronicle-Telegram. He covers courts and county government, and has been with the Chronicle since 2001. He can be reached at 329-7147 or BDicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter.