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Published: Wednesday, 3/3/2004

Low county turnout means quiet polling places

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A worker delivers ballots to the Lucas County Board of Elections at Government Center in downtown Toledo. A worker delivers ballots to the Lucas County Board of Elections at Government Center in downtown Toledo.
WDSWORTH / BLADE Enlarge

It was supposed to be a busy time.

But at 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon at the Kent Branch Library on Collingwood Avenue, primary election poll workers Su Elliot knitted and Cynda Tucker-Coates read a book.

“We re still expecting a rush,” said a hopeful Ms. Tucker-Coates.

Most other precincts across Lucas County experienced a similarly drowsy day. Officials had anticipated a 30 percent turnout, but the final number was about half that: 16.2 percent.

The low turnout coupled with other factors led to fewer problems than anticipated. So calm was the day that Joseph Kidd, executive director Lucas County Elections Board, had time for a late-afternoon lunch.

“That is something that doesn t usually happen,” he said.

Mr. Kidd had been on edge since the November election, when levered voting machines were replaced by optical scanners and touch screen machines that left voters confused and angry. The problem was exacerbated at the time by a lack of enough trained poll workers and technicians to troubleshoot problems, he said.

That was not the case yesterday, when the optical scanner - which reads hand-marked ballots - was the only choice voters had.

A contingent of 50 rovers and inspectors, who floated among the county s 495 precincts, helped keep problems in check.

Still, some voters voiced complaints.

Kathy Jeffrey, voting at St. John Baptist School in Toledo s Point Place neighborhood, called the paper scan ballots “confusing,” and said she preferred the touch screen model. Other voters, Jacquelyn Layson among them, voiced similar support for the touch-screen machines.

“I think it was simple and easy,” she said.

Elections board officials must soon choose between the optical scanner and touch-screen machines, one of which will be used in the November election and beyond.



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