By Stephanie Warsmith
Beacon Journal staff writer
Summit County residents voting in the September primary will want to keep an eye on their mail for an orange card telling them where to vote.
The county elections board approved new polling locations Monday that will start with the Sept. 10 primary. The board previously signed off on new precincts.
Summit County will now have 800 to 1,000 voters per precinct, rather than the 1,200 to 1,400 average in last November’s presidential election that led to long lines at voting spots across the county.
The board, after cutting precincts and polling locations to save money last year, opted to boost the number back up because of the problems in the November election. The board also needed to redraw the lines because of new ward boundaries adopted in several large cities, including Akron, in response to the census.
The county will have 240 precincts and 111 polling locations in the September primary, which will feature races in the county’s largest cities, including Akron, Barberton, Cuyahoga Falls, Green, Norton, Stow and Tallmadge.
The board will mail cards to voters by the middle of this month, telling them their precincts and polling locations. Voters also can visit the board’s website, www.summitcountyboe.com/, to look up where they’ll be voting. This information is expected to be added to the website by the end of this week.
The board will finish choosing polling locations for the remainder of the county in time for the Nov. 5 general election. The polling locations aren’t expected to change for voters between the September and November elections.
Kim Zurz, the board’s Democratic deputy director, said the board has been challenged in trying to find large enough polling locations in some areas. She said many schools don’t want to have voting because of safety concerns with voters in the building, but she said these are sometimes the only places large enough.
She said schools that don’t want voting can suggest to the board another location, like a church, that could be used instead.
“We have to have places for people to vote,” she said.
The board mailed letters to all elected officials in the county asking for suggestions for voting spots, but got very few responses, said Joe Masich, the board’s GOP director.
Zurz suggested that the board send thank-you letters to the polling locations after the primary to show its appreciation.
The board pays $75 per precinct. Schools are paid for the extra cost of having a janitor in the building during the setup and voting hours.
Kim Arnold, the board’s assistant to the director, said some churches complained that $75 didn’t cover their expenses for having someone open up and close down after voting and, in some cases, storing and setting up the voting equipment.
The board asked employees to compare what Summit pays for polling locations to other counties.
Board members disagreed on the number of ballots to be ordered for the upcoming primary, with the Democrats wanting to order fewer so that not as many get thrown out. Ray Weber, the only Republican board member at the meeting, favored purchasing more to be sure to have enough.
The board voted 2-1 to order 1.5 times the affiliated voters or 105 percent of those who cast ballots in the 2009 and 2010 primaries, whichever is more.
Weber voted no, suggesting that they follow the staff’s recommendation of 2 times the number of affiliated voters. The difference between 1.5 and 2 times the affiliated voters was about $3,600.
Alex Arshinkoff, the other GOP board member, wasn’t at the meeting.
The board voted unanimously to order enough ballots for 50 percent of the registered voters for questions and issues only.
Primaries generally have a low turnout of 20 percent or less.
The board threw out 84 percent of its ballots in September 2009 and 65 percent in September 2011.
The board will spend $20,083 on the 91,288 primary ballots, which are 22 cents each.
Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman, was confident that the lower amount would be sufficient. He “guaranteed” there will still be ballots left at the end of the election and that the board won’t run out.
“This is still a big number based on the history of what’s been left over,” he said.
“Stay by your home on primary day,” Masich advised Gorbach.