Voters get their say today

Early voting wrapped up at 2 p.m. Monday as the Washington County Board of Elections began to prepare polling places for today’s general election.

There was a lot of activity at the 207 Davis Ave., Marietta board office around noon as the final group of early voters showed up to cast their ballots before Election Day.

“I have to work the polls on Election Day so I vote early every year,” said Cindy Thrasher of Marietta as she picked up her ballot and headed for a voting booth at the elections office Monday afternoon.

Although there had been some concerns expressed about how the election board’s recent move from the Washington County Courthouse to Davis Avenue would impact early voting, Thrasher said she was fine with the new location.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s convenient and I like that there’s more available parking here.”

Another early voter, Stan Vanlandingham, agreed.

“I think this location’s great. There’s plenty of parking and it’s easy to get to,” he said.

Early voting began Oct. 1, and by Monday a total 2,196 requests for advance ballots had been received at the elections office. By 2 p.m. Monday 2,006 of those requested ballots had been returned, according to elections director Tara Hupp.

“Nine hundred of those ballots were cast here at the office,” she said.

Hupp expects more ballots will be returned over the next several days, noting that early voters could mail their ballots in as long as they were postmarked before midnight Monday, or advance ballots could be hand-carried into the elections office by 7:30 p.m. today.

“Some people also request absentee ballots, but then decide to vote on Election Day,” she added. “That’s fine, but when they show up at the polls their ballots will have to be considered provisional until we can confirm they didn’t use the absentee ballot.”

On Monday the new electronic poll books were being installed at each of the county’s polling locations. Hupp said poll workers have been thoroughly trained on how to use the devices, but she wanted to be sure the equipment was properly set up before the polls open at 6:30 a.m. today.

The new poll books are designed to make the voting process easier and more accurate, as well as help make delivery of election returns quicker for poll workers.

As in past elections, candidates and others interested in receiving the latest results may watch the returns tonight in the hallway of the county courthouse annex.

“This is where people have always gathered on election night, so they’ll be in the same place as previous years,” said Gary Lockhart, IT director at the courthouse.

He said the election results will be projected onto a screen located just outside the sheriff’s office in the annex, and a test run of the system was being performed Monday afternoon.

“It should work without any problems, but a technician will be at the courthouse in case any issues crop up Tuesday night,” Lockhart added.

As usual when voters arrive at the polls today they’ll be asked to present some form of identification. Hupp said a current Ohio drivers license or Ohio personal ID card with a magnetic strip on the back will help expedite the balloting process.

“But we want to make it clear that’s not the only form of identification they can use,” she said. “All other forms of ID allowed by the state may be used, too.”

Those documents include military ID or other government documents, bank statements, check statements, utility bills and similar documents bearing the voter’s name and current address.

Hupp noted a current address was not required if military ID is used.

Although there are currently more than 43,400 registered voters in Washington County, today’s turnout is expected to be light as it’s an off-year election.

“In 2007 we had a similar election year with no state issues and two mayoral races in Belpre and Marietta,” Hupp said. “But we had a smaller number of early voters, 1,598, that year. There were a total 39,224 registered voters in 2007 but only 14,678 ballots were cast. Of those, 13,080 ballots were cast on Election Day.”