If the first day of voting at the Scioto County Board of Elections is any indication, the turnout for this year’s general election is going to be one for the record books.
“We had a record number yesterday (Wednesday),” Scioto County Board of Elections Director Julia Gearheart said. “We outdid the presidential election four years ago.”
Gearheart compared the first day of the last presidential election, 2012, with Wednesday’s numbers.
“In 2012 the first day of in-office voting, we voted 158 people in our office, which was enormous. We voted over 5,000 people in our office in 2012. We mailed out approximately 1,200 absentee ballots in 2012,” Gearheart said. “Yesterday we mailed out 4,286 ballots for our first mailing, and we had 185 voters in our office yesterday.”
Gearheart may have gotten an indication it was going to be a big day and the beginning of a large turnout election when she arrived at work.
“When I came in yesterday a little after 7 (a.m.) and we already had a line, I was like ‘oh no,’” Gearheart said.
This past year, the Board of elections knocked down walls expanding their facilities into the former County Engineer’s office, moving the voting machines from the courthouse lobby into the board offices, creating a much larger space and creating some individual offices including a new office for Gearheart and Deputy Director Teresa Knittel. The move also created more privacy and security for voters.
“When we expanded our office, we didn’t even realize that we were busy (on Wednesday),” Gearheart said. “I think because of the bigger office space for us and for the voters, we didn’t even realize that we were busy because we weren’t walking over top of each other. So the voters had plenty of room in the office to vote, and, at the end of the day we thought it wasn’t really that busy – then we pulled the numbers and we were, like wow! We were busy.”
The large turnout trend was seen in several other districts in southern Ohio as well.
“It was kind of busy, steady pretty much all day,” Shawna Burton, director at the Pike County Board of Elections, said. “We had, I believe, 76 voters. We only had 5 people the first day in March for the primary. I think it’s going to be a pretty heavy turnout, really.”
Cathy Overbeck, director of the Lawrence County Board of Elections, echoed the directors in other parts of southern Ohio.
“We had over a hundred. I don’t have an exact count at the moment,” Overbeck said. “We don’t usually have that many the first day. I think, in the very least, it will equal (20)08, probably surpass that.”
In a recent interview with the Daily Times, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said early voting is preferred in Ohio.
“We like early voting because it reduces the chance that there will be a line at the polls on election day,” Husted said. “The reason Ohio created early voting was because in 2oo4 we had some locations that had hours of waiting and that’s unacceptable.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.