County residents choose sides

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 20, 2004

Normally, Lawrence County Board of Elections officials handle 500-600 new voter registrations between January 1 of any given year and Oct. 4, the deadline for registering to vote in a November election.

But this time, things are different - very different: people eager to vote in the general election are flooding the board of elections office.

Sheer numbers

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Board of elections director Mary Wipert said so far, 2,570

new voters have signed up to cast a ballot.

"This does not include changes of address or people requesting a name change," Wipert said. "These are new registrations. This is more than we have ever had."

Wipert said 103 new Democrats were added to the rolls in time for the May primary; 152 new Republicans. She said she does not know how many of the 2,570 new voters are Democrat or Republican.

This figure also does not include any new registrations that have been mailed to the Ohio Secretary of State's office in Columbus.

What is bringing people out to vote?

"I expect it's probably the presidential race," Wipert said. "There are some contested local races, too. We have the county offices, recorder, treasurer and other races."

Issues and answers

For Ironton's Shawn Moore, this election will be his first:

He is 18 years old. Moore said he is most interested in the presidential election, because the outcome will decide "whether we stay in the Iraq war or we don't stay in the war," he said. "At first I thought the war was a good idea, but now I'm beginning to think it's a bad one." Moore declined to say for which presidential candidate he would vote.

Robin Webb of Ironton will also cast her first ballot this year.

She registered for the first time a couple of months ago and said she will probably vote for President Bush. "He's already in there, and he knows what's going on. And he's not swinging back and forth on the issues."

Like Moore, Ironton resident Jan Sabo said the presidential contest between President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry is the most important race this year. A staunch Democrat, Sabo said she is concerned about the future of the Social Security system and health care, and will vote for Kerry.

"There are people living on Social Security who don't get enough to survive," Sabo said. "And I'm concerned about people who don't have health care. It almost makes me cry when I think about elderly people who go without their medicine because they can't afford it. And homelessness. There should not be one single person in America who is homeless."

Brandi Norris, 17, is not old enough to vote yet. But Norris said she plans to register when she turns 18. "I wish more young people would get out and vote."

No hanging chads

Wipert said all Lawrence County poll workers are undergoing training in time for the general election.

"This is something we've always done but this year, Ohio is being watched more closely because there are many counties still using the punch card ballots," Wipert said.

That includes Lawrence County. But Wipert said she sees nothing wrong with the punch card system - if people use it properly and check their ballot to make sure each hole is punched through as it should be.

Wipert said she would like to see each voter educated on how to use the punch card.

"We're asking people to look at their ballot before they hand it in, to make sure every hole in completely punched," Wipert said. "If you care enough to vote, you should care enough to look at it before you turn it in."

Staff reporter Teresa Moore can be reached at 532-1445 ext. 25.