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1st Ironton runoff vote causing changes

The runoff election between Ironton mayoral candidates Katrina Keith and Bob Cleary is set for Tuesday, Nov. 17. However, there are some changes set for the runoff election that differ from general election day.

Of the four candidates who ran for the office, Keith received 1,121 votes for 36.59 percent of the total vote, while Cleary finished with 721 votes making up 23.53 percent.

The two biggest changes to the runoff election are that there will be no absentee voting other than for military and overseas citizens, and only two voting locations. They will be at the Ironton VFW 8850 and the Ironton City Center.

“A lot of people are frustrated at the board, but it’s physically impossible for us to have absentees,” Mark McCown, Lawrence County Board of Elections member, said. “We can’t have the official canvass until Saturday (Nov. 14) and then we’d have to proof the ballots and get them to the printer. It’s impossible to mail the absentee ballots out to the voters and receive them back postmarked before election day.”

McCown added that absentee voting is accepted for military and overseas citizens because federal law allows the board to send ballots to those eligible any way they request.

A representative from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office said the office doesn’t comment on issues regarding local elections, as it is all up to the local election board.

Although both candidates said they understand it’s the board’s call to make these changes, neither is happy about losing the absentee votes.

“I hate it for the residents who are shut in and unable to get out and vote,” Keith said about not having absentees. “It’s an honor to be able to vote and it’s unfortunate for the community, but due to the time constraint, I understand the board’s decision.”

Cleary said he is unhappy about absentee votes not being a part of the runoff election because it takes away people’s rights.

“I think not allowing people to vote by absentee is terrible. It’s taking away their right to vote,” Cleary said. “I had a lady call that can’t walk, but still wants to get out to the polls and vote. I think there are a lot of others like that too. Absentee voting is a very important part of the election process.”

As far as compressing all normal polling locations into two, McCown said the decision was made due to the fact that most of the Ironton polling locations are at schools.

“On election day, the schools take the day off as an in-service day,” McCown said. “It would make it exceptionally difficult to have sufficient handicap parking, voter parking and a gym available to walk in with kids coming in and out of the schools.”

McCown said the VFW was chosen because it has been an Ironton polling location for many years and has the needed parking available as well as handicap accessibility. While the Ironton City Center has never been used for this purpose, it is all one floor for handicap accessibility and parking, with the Ironton Police station parking lot and the parking lot of the Briggs Library administrative building open for voter parking, McCown said.

“It’s difficult finding locations for people to get in and out of,” Keith said. “But I trust them (the board) enough that they will do what’s right for all citizens with what they have to work with.”

Cleary said he understands the reason for only the two voting locations, but would have rather the board choose different locations, stating the inconvenience of the parking situation at the Ironton City Center and alcohol served at the VFW may deter voters from voting at that location, although McCown said voting takes place in a completely separate section.

“I think there’s a good chance that overall attendance will be down,” Cleary said.

He added that Central Christian Church and First Baptist Church would have been better polling locations.

“I hate that not everyone has the opportunity to vote, but I think the board is doing what they can to accommodate as many people as possible,” Keith said.

Voters in precincts 1A through and including 3B will vote at the Ironton City Center, while voters in precincts 3C through 5A will vote at the Ironton VFW. Polling hours are 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.