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Voters can weigh in at primary

March 3, 2008
By Patrick Cooley,
On Tuesday, Ohio voters will have a chance to weigh in on the hotly contested Democratic presidential race, as well as a handful of local issues.

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton are vying for the party’s nomination for president in one of the most talked about primaries in recent memory. On the Republican side, Arizona Sen. John McCain appears to have his party’s nomination all but locked up, though former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have yet to concede.

“The secretary of state is predicting a 52 percent voter turnout across the state,” said Tara Hupp, director of the Washington County Board of Elections. “In Washington County, the absentee count is somewhat lower than we expected. We have 2,200 absentee ballots in so far.”

Hupp said this could indicate a lower turnout than expected or it could mean that most voters are waiting until Election Day to cast their ballots.

“Belmont County, which has 65,000 registered voters, has 6,100 absentee ballots in,” Hupp said. “Noble County, which has between 9,500 and 10,000 registered voters, has 1,500 absentee ballots in.”

Washington County has 56 precincts and 39,509 registered voters. Each precinct is staffed on Election Day by four poll workers, two Democrats and two Republicans, one of whom is chosen as a presiding judge.

Whether the presiding judge is a Democrat or a Republican is determined by the majority of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election. Because Washington County largely voted for Gov. Ted Strickland, all of the presiding judges will be Democrats.

Hupp said the last primary election went very smoothly and there is no reason for her to believe that this year will be any different.

All of the precincts will be exactly the same as they were in the November election, according to Peggy Byers, deputy director of the board of elections.

“We went to a conference this winter where (Ohio Secretary of State) Jennifer Brunner was talking about moving things around this summer,” she said. “She was talking about congregating five to 10 precincts into a supercenter in each county, so we decided we weren’t going to make any changes until then.”

The voting precincts will open at 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday and will not close until 7:30 p.m. Anyone who is 17 years old and will turn 18 by the date of the November general presidential election will be allowed to vote in the primary, but they will only be allowed to vote for candidates, not issues.

Registered voters can vote absentee at the board of elections in the Washington County Courthouse today until 5 p.m. On Tuesday, voters must cast ballots at their individual precincts.

Anyone who votes on Tuesday must bring with them a valid form of identification with their name and current address. This could be their driver’s license or government or military ID, a utility bill, a bank statement or a government check.

Many voters are very opinionated on certain issues that will be on the ballot, but some just wish there would be a higher turnout.

“I read in the paper that only 65 percent of the registered voters actually voted in the last presidential elections,” said Susanne Bock of Marietta. “That doesn’t even count the people who are unregistered. That’s just pitiful.”

“People need to voice their opinion,” said Darlene Burke-Ogletree, 50, of Marietta. “They can’t really complain if they don’t have some kind of voice in our government.”

Fact Box

If you vote
¯ Polling places open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
¯ All precincts will vote at the same locations they did in the 2007 general election.



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