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Election ruling causing changes

With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of early voting in Ohio the three days before the election, the Lawrence County Board of Elections is gearing up to handle that increased number of voters who will be coming into the courthouse at that time.

Tuesday the Ohio Secretary of State issued a directive on what the hours will be for the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Nov. 6.

“We are going to try to take care of it,” Craig Allen, board of elections chair, said. “None of us likes to work on Sunday. That is a day we didn’t have programmed into our budget request.”

Last month the elections board requested and received from the Lawrence County Commission approximately $100,000 more than its original appropriation.

During the summer Secretary of State Jon Husted sent out two massive mailings of absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state. As of Tuesday, 5,200 in Lawrence County had voted absentee either by coming into the courthouse to vote or by sending the ballot by mail.

That is at least two and a half times the number of absentees at this same time during the 2008 presidential election.

“This is the (Oct.) 17th,” Allen said. “Who knows what will happen. Ordinarily the Saturday before the election, we have voting until noon and then the presiding judges come in and get the equipment. That is a major task. We don’t have a whole lot of physical room.”

For 23 years Mary Wipert was the director of the county elections board serving from 1984 to 2007. The highest number of absentee ballots during her tenure was 4,000, she said.

“Maybe they are anticipating longer lines,” Wipert said on why there is an increase in early voting. “The secretary of state sent out absentee applications to everyone. Maybe that is the reason. People think it will be a heavy election and won’t have to wait.”

The lack of space at the elections board office is presenting staff with a new problem as voters will be coming into the office the same time as staff will be getting ready for Tuesday’s official voting day.

“We set those polling booths in the office and you have to have privacy,” Allen said. “We have all this other activity going on around them. It is not an ideal arrangements. But what can you do?”