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Lowell voters unhappy with precinct change

Although residents of Lowell and Adams Township began voting in Beverly in 2018, many are ready to move their polling location back to Lowell.

Lowell Mayor Steve Weber said the village council attended the last regularly scheduled meeting of the Washington Board of Elections to make their wishes known.

“Around 80-some people voted in the last election from Lowell,” Weber said. “A lot of people called me and didn’t know where to vote. Some have to travel an extra 20 or 30 miles round trip to Beverly, depending on where they live.”

According to the board of elections, there are 1,063 registered voters in Lowell/Adams Township, and in November’s election, only 29 percent voted.

“That’s just not good,” Weber said. “The main reasons I’ve heard is that people don’t want to travel, and some people work and can’t get to Beverly in time to vote.”

Weber wrote a letter to the election board stating “another problem became apparent when voters were given the wrong ballots.”

Even after stating that fact to poll workers, the problem was not resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, he wrote.

He said the Lowell Village Council, the people of Lowell, the Adams Township trustees and their residents requested through the letter that the polling place be moved back to the Lowell/Adams Township Volunteer Fire Department as soon as possible.

The polling place in Beverly covers the Beverly/Waterford, Lowell/Adams Township, Waterford and Waterford A precincts, said Mandy Amos, director of the board of elections.

With 1,063 voters from Lowell/Adams Township, 1,166 registered voters in the Beverly/Waterford precinct, and 1,131 registered in the Waterford A precinct, there will be chaos when people go to vote, Weber said.

“A lot of people like to go vote where they live,” he said. “People want to be able to vote conveniently and easily.”

For those not able to vote on March 17, the board of elections office will start mailing out absentee forms on Feb. 19. People can call 740-374-6828 to get an absentee form mailed to them, or the forms can be printed off the board of elections website and mailed in to 204 Davis Ave. Suite B, Marietta, OH 45750. The forms can be found online at https://www.washingtongov.org/564/Absentee-Voting.

The deadline for registration, or name and address changes is Feb. 18. The board’s office will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. that day.

Early voting in Ohio begins Feb. 19 and ends March 16. Those wanting to vote early can either mail in an absentee ballot or vote in person at the board of elections office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Amos said the board will not take any action on a polling location in Lowell until after the primary election in March.

She noted that during the board’s special meeting Wednesday, it was voted that the precincts voting in Beverly will no longer vote at the Beverly Volunteer Fire Department. Instead, voters will go to St. Bernard Catholic Church to cast their ballots.

Dennis Sipe, president of the board of elections, said those precincts had at one time voted at the church. They are moving back from the fire department to the church because of the size of the church’s facility and their bigger parking lot. The church is located near the fire department, so it wouldn’t add any travel time, he added.

Sipe said polling precincts have been combined because when the board was purchasing new voting equipment, they didn’t want to buy more than necessary.

The polling precincts went from 27 to 13 when the new equipment came in. Devola was moved into the Washington County Fairgrounds and Decatur now votes at the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Vincent.

Amos said the Lower Paw Paw Church of Christ in Lower Salem is now where Liberty Township, Aurelius village, Macksburg and Lower Salem vote.

Weber said people in Lower Salem and Salem Township were able to vote locally, so Lowell/Adams Township should be able to do the same.

Sipe said the board will discuss how to reconfigure where the precincts are located, which is something they do every year. He said it wasn’t feasible to have as many single precincts as they had in the past.

“We told them we would be investigating after the primary,” he said. “We wouldn’t make any promises because we’re trying to stay away from the single precincts. They are expensive given the number of voting machines we have to purchase. But we’ll keep an open mind.”

Approximately $750,000 was allocated by the state to purchase the new machines last fall in Washington County, Sipe added.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

At a glance:

• Lowell Village Council and Adams Township trustees are asking to have their polling location moved back to Lowell.

•Residents of Lowell/Adams Township have to go to Beverly to vote.

• About 29 percent of Lowell/Adams Township voters cast their ballots in November’s election.

• Washington County Board of Elections officials say the matter will be investigated after March’s primary.

Source: Times research.

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