Board: Higher turnout source for delays at polling places

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 12, 2023

Reports of lines for those taking part in special election

When Lawrence County’s voters went to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the state’s special election, they encountered something not typical for the area: long lines and a lengthy wait to vote.

The Tribune received many calls on Tuesday morning from voters, stating that they had to wait an hour to vote at the Fairland and Ironton polling places, while at the county’s third, in South Point, there were waits, though not quite as long.

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Randy Lambert, of the Lawrence County Board of elections, said the reason for the delay was “simple.”

“Turnout is much more than anticipated and we supplied machines based on anticipated turnout,” he said.

Lambert, along with J.T. Holt and Cathy Snider, of the board, spoke with The Tribune on Tuesday to discuss the situation.

They said their office had received many messages that morning about the waits.

“By 8:30, we realized the turnout was going to be greater than anticipated,” Lambert said.

In addition to basing it on lower turnout, they said the setup of the election was designed to reduce costs, as the state, which ordered the election, was not fully reimbursing counties for costs.

“We try to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars,” Snyder said.

“The state is not fully funding this,” Holt said.

For Tuesday’s election, the county’s number of polling stations was reduced to three, and the board said they based the number of machines on the forecast of low turnout.

Special elections typically do not see high numbers of voters.

Snyder pointed out that the last one to take place in the county only drew four percent of voters.

In unofficial results, the board reported the final turnout at 18.5 percent for Tuesday.

Snyder said, once they realized the issue, more machines were sent to polling stations.

“We sent four to Ironton,” Snyder said. “That brought them to seven, only two short of normal.”

Lambert said they also double the amount of machines in Fairland and Ironton’s locations.

He said, once this was done, it took roughly one hour to ease things.

“They got caught up to where it was only 15 minutes,” he said.

Lawrence County was not alone in issues with long waits. Turnout was higher than anticipated statewide and multiple counties reported long waits.

The board members said Lawrence County typically does not have this issue, pointing to the large number of polling stations in proportion to its population.

Snyder said, for the special election, early in-person and absentee voting were also available to voters.

The reduced polling stations were only in place for this week’s election. Lambert said notices were posted to voters that they will use their regular polling locations in November’s general election and those in the future.