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More voters turn out in county than expected

Lawrence County was blanketed with campaign signs for months before Tuesday's election, but, less than half of the county's residents voted.

Out of 38,620 registered voters in Lawrence County, 16,089 cast ballots, which is approximately 42 percent of voters.

Before the election, Lawrence County Board of Elections Director Mary Wipert had only predicted 25 to 27 percent would vote. Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell had predicted 39 percent.

The results of the county's election are unofficial. On Nov. 20, the Board of Elections will begin the finalizing process, Wipert said.

Provisional ballots still need to be counted, she continued. If someone were to move from one precinct to another and fail to change his or her address, he or she would have to vote with one of these from the time when absentee voting starts until election day at the new precinct or the Board of Elections's office.

After someone requests a provisional ballot, a card is sent to that person's new address, and the Post Office is told not to forward it, Wipert said. If the card is sent back to the Board of Elections, and the Board made no errors, that person's ballot is not counted.

"We're not denying anyone the right to vote," she said. "But, we need to prove where someone lives."

Besides provisional ballots, ballots from military personnel have yet to be counted. The postmark deadline for those is election day, and the Board of Elections must receive them by Nov. 15th. Wipert said she does not know how many military ballots, the board will receive, but most likely, there will not be many of them, she said.

Not only will the board begin the election's finalizing process, but the board will also meet to discuss changes for the next election, particularly replacing punch cards with an electronic touch pad system or an optical scanning device.

During a visit in June, Secretary of State Blackwell said the estimated cost to upgrade Lawrence County to a touch pad system would be $745,000. However, a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives could provide federal money to pay for 90 percent of upgrading costs, meaning the county would only have to pay $74,000.

Even though punch cards were still used in this election, Wipert said the election seemed to go smoothly. Poll workers were instructed to ask voters to look over their ballots to make sure holes are punched where the chad is actually removed and are in line. This was a result of the Florida controversy in the 2000 Presidential Election. However, Wipert emphasized that because of some of Ohio's election laws, that Ohio does not run the risk of being in Florida's previous situation.