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Elections board seeks fixes to voting process

11/15/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

DOWNTOWN AKRON — For many Summit County voters, the topic of conversation following the Nov. 6 General Election wasn’t about who won the many contested races.

Instead, talk centered on how long it took for some to cast their vote in a county that saw its number of precincts shrink, increasing the number of voters per precinct.

Joe Masich, deputy director of the Summit County Board of Elections, said voter turnout was about 71 percent for the fall election, which included hotly contested races for president and senator, as well as county races.

“It was crowded,” Masich said.

He added that the BOE received many complaints and they will be addressed. Some voters experienced waits of up to 90 minutes, Masich said.

“I have a whole bunch of emails, both complaints and a couple of compliments,” Masich said. “We will be reviewing them and answering them all.”

The election was the first time that new precincts were in effect throughout the county. The BOE reduced the number of precincts in the county from 475 to 298 this year in an effort to cut costs after Summit County Council balked at the board’s requested 2012 budget. The result is that each precinct had more voters, up to 1,400, Masich said.

The BOE also changed many polling places. Registered voters were informed by mail in late September of their polling place, as well as their districts, many of which changed due to redistricting.

A few days after the election, Masich said the changes would be evaluated.

“We’re going to reassess both,” he said.

Some polling locations will likely change, he added.

“I attended a couple I was not happy with,” he said.

One location was a school library filled with tables with computers that made setting up difficult, Masich said.

“I’ve already spoken to my counterpart here, and we want to reassess them all,” he said.

But Masich said he doesn’t expect there to be any major changes in the precincts.

“Because of redistricting and whatnot, some precincts might have gotten larger than they need to be, so we might have to do some tweaking on them,” Masich said.

One of the successes of the election, Masich said, was that the BOE had its results processed by midnight. That happened even though the BOE’s main server went down right at 7:30 p.m., when absentee ballots should have been processed. That meant there was a delay in getting some of the early results posted, he said.

At this point, the work from the General Election is not done. Masich said BOE staff is going through provisional ballots, and the board will meet to approve those that are eligible to be counted. Also, absentee ballots from overseas military members can be accepted through Nov. 16 if they were postmarked by Nov. 5.

The election’s results will likely be certified Nov. 27.

Overall, Masich said he is happy with the way Election Day went. He added he knows the day did not go smoothly for some voters.

“There were a lot of tensions,” he said. “A fight broke out at one location. We ask that people just be patient. It is a human process, and people should expect that a presidential election with higher turnout will be busy. We will try to do things we can to improve.”

While many took advantage of early voting, Masich said the number, around 91,000, was about the same as it was in 2008. Waits were minimal for those who went to the BOE’s Grant Street location to vote early, with the exception of the days right before the election, Masich said.

“Campaigns intensify their efforts, so a lot of voters wait until the last minute,” he said. “Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday there were long lines here. Other than that, there weren’t. Out of 35 days, four days had long lines. But anyone who was in line at closing time stayed in line and voted.”

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