Making a choice
Published 11:10 pm Saturday, October 31, 2009
The end is near. After months of campaigning and, hopefully, diligent consideration on the part of voters, Lawrence Countians will go to the polls Tuesday and elect township trustees, municipal council members and school board members.
Elections officials are predicting a light turnout overall, but have seen some areas where interest is running high.
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Lawrence County Board of Elections Deputy Director Eric Bradshaw said he anticipates only 30 percent of the county’s registered voters will actually cast a ballot in this election and many of them already have done so.
Bradshaw said for an off-year, absentee voting is high — 4,360 Lawrence Countians had cast an absentee ballot as of Friday.
Where are the hotspots for absentee voting this year? Elizabeth Township, which has a trustee race, Coal Grove and the entire Dawson-Bryant School District and Mason Township.
“A lot of it is because of the number of candidates you have running for two or three seats,” Bradshaw said.
He has a point: In Elizabeth Township, seven people are seeking two available trustee seats.
Of the 2,202 registered Elizabeth voters, 687 have voted absentee as of Friday. The same is true in Mason Township, where nine candidates are seeking two trustee seats.
“If you’re one of nine candidates, you’re going to have to hustle,” Bradshaw said.
In the Dawson-Bryant School District, eight people are vying for three available seats on the board. There are 4,967 registered voters in that school district; 804 have voted absentee ballot.
By contrast, the City of Ironton, which has both a school board race and a city council race, had only 508 absentee voters this year.
Bradshaw said although there are a number of candidates for the Fairland Board of Education — eight people are seeking three seats — the absentee voting is not nearly as heavy there is in the Dawson-Bryant district.
If candidates have been campaigning vigorously this fall, so have firefighters in three of the county’s fire districts.
Lawrence and Upper Townships and the Chesapeake-Union Fire Department all have renewal levies on the ballot, asking residents to continue financial support for their fire departments by approving levies that pay for essentials such as equipment and supplies.
Although the manpower may be volunteer, firefighters in these departments point out that they are held to the same standard as paid departments, are asked to provide the same services and pay for the same necessities, often on a shoestring budget.
“Our newest fire truck is $1,200- $1,400 a month, then we have insurance and its expensive but you can’t go without it.
“Even though we’re a volunteer department, you still have to pay worker’s compensation in case you have a firefighter who goes out and is hurt on the job. Insurance is probably $11,000 a year,” Upper Township Fire Chief Jeff Scott said.
Like other departments, Upper has been aggressive in getting grants to help pay for necessities the budget can’t cover. Firefighters have fundraisers, too.
Scott said people who have questions about his levy may call him at 533-7013.
Lawrence Township’s five-year, one-mil fire protection levy brings in approximately $15,000 annually, Chesapeake’s five-year fire protection levy brings in $13,182 annually.
Also, Coal Grove voters will decide the fate of a one mil operational expense levy for the village of Coal Grove.
The roughly $60,000 generated annually would pay for such necessities as street lights, police and fire equipment.
The levy had been routinely supported by voters until last November when it was on the ballot but was rejected.
There are three statewide issues on the ballot as well. One would allow a casino to be built in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and Toledo. Supporters contend in-state casinos will keep Ohio dollars in Ohio instead of residents here going outside the state to gamble.
Opponents contend the establishments of such casinos would increase the crime rate and encourage people to gamble.
A second issue on the ballot deals with farm animal care. Issue 2 will, if passed, establish a livestock care board charged with establishing standards of care for cattle, sheep, poultry, horses and mules, hogs and other livestock.
The actual mechanics of the board, such as who will enforce the standards, will be addressed later on.
The Ohio Farm Bureau has endorsed Issue 2.
Margaret Reid, who is a member of the Lawrence County Farm Bureau and a farmer, said although there are laws on the books that deal with animal cruelty, often the level of enforcement is uneven from county to county.
Reid said she believes the majority of farmers in Ohio do try to care for their animals because it affects their bottom line — sick, poorly cared for livestock will mean less dollars at sale time. This constitutional amendment, however, is meant to set basic standards.
“A vote yes on this issue is to assure people of Ohio they will have a safe, economical food supply, keeping the economy of Ohio strong through agriculture and knowing the farmers and their livestock are held to the best practices to provide the food we need,” Reid said.
A third constitutional amendment would allow for the issuance of bonds to compensate Iraq, Persian Gulf and Afghanistan war veterans.
Moving the polls
Polling hours haven’t changed — the polls will open Tuesday at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. What has changed for many Lawrence County voters is where they will cast that ballot.
Some Ironton precincts have been moved because new schools have opened and old buildings are no longer in use.
West Ironton precincts and voters who in the past voted at the middle school will all now use the new K-8 building.
Precincts that were at the old Central School are now at the Conley Center and the voters who used to go to Whitwell to vote will now go to the Open Door School.
Voters in Aid and Mason townships will also use different polling places.
Bradshaw said the changes in Aid and Mason townships are meant to more fully comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) that requires polling places to be handicapped accessible — that includes paved parking lots, not gravel ones that are difficult for wheelchairs and people on crutches to navigate, less intense inclines and slopes and other things that could impose a safety risk or impediment to a handicapped individual.
In Aid and Mason townships, voters will use Symmes Valley Schools.