While many other counties in Ohio are cutting polling places, Summit has increased its number of voting spots.
The Summit County Board of Elections recently approved 201 polling spots for the Nov. 5 election, which is 50 more — or about 25 percent higher — than it had in last November’s presidential election. The number is even slightly higher — adding seven — from what the board had in the 2012 presidential primary.
The reason Summit is going up when others counties are going down? It tried cutting precincts and polling locations between last year’s presidential primary and general election to save money, and that didn’t go well. The changes resulted in long waits and massive voter confusion.
The board, which also needed to redraw the precinct lines because of new ward boundaries adopted in several large cities in response to the census, opted to return to more precincts and polling places to avoid a repeat of the problems experienced in November. The board voted in May to boost precincts from 298 to 420, which is still lower than the 475 the county had before.
League of Women Voters leaders, who were concerned about the slashing of precincts and polling locations last year, are pleased to see the county’s numbers go back up.
“We are happy to endorse anything that makes voting easier and makes more people vote,” said Janice Jacobs, project director of the League of Women Voters of the Akron Area Education Fund.
The board previously sent cards to voters notifying them of their new polling locations for the September primary, but not all voters had issues or candidates on the ballot in that election. The board will mail orange cards next week to the rest of voters in the county.
The board also changed a few locations that were used in the September primary to different spots in the November election because of disability-access issues. Voters whose polling locations are changing between the two elections also will be notified, said Kim Zurz, the board’s deputy director.
Voters should hold onto the card that has the November election date listed on it as a reminder for where to go on Election Day, Zurz advised.
Some school districts, including Barberton, Nordonia Hills and Twinsburg, raised safety concerns about having voting in their schools.
Zurz said many districts have started not having school on Election Day, having teacher training that day, which removes the safety concern. She said the board tries when possible to find alternate, large-enough locations instead of schools, like churches. She said the board also sent letters to every community, asking for suggested polling spots.
The new polling locations will give Summit County 800 to 1,000 voters per precinct, rather than the 1,200 to 1,400 average in last November’s election.
Several other Ohio counties have recently cut polling locations to reflect population changes and to save money. Licking County, which is southeast of Columbus, eliminated half of its voting locations to curb costs, slashing 20 polling spots and 30 precincts, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
Franklin County, Columbus’ home, plans to jettison 12 polling locations in the upcoming election, according to the Dispatch.
Summit County voters may double check their precincts and polling locations on the elections board’s website: www.summitcountyboe.com/. They can click on “voters” and then “voter search.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.