Thursday, Jun 30, 2016
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Despite floods, Findlay, Ottawa ready for voters

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Hancock County Board of Elections clerk Donna Spitler sorts through more than 2,000 absentee ballots in the board's temporary headquarters. Last summer's flooding destroyed about 91 of the county's 300 voting machines.


Floodwaters already had filled Main Street in Ottawa early on Aug. 22 when two employees of the Putnam County Board of Elections made it into the office and began a frantic scramble to get valuable equipment to higher ground.

They saved the office computers and 28 electronic voting machines before they had to flee because of the water rising inside the building.

Ginger Price, director of the board of elections, said 108 voting machines and about 75 percent of the county's voter registration cards did not fare so well.

"They were underwater," Ms. Price said. "It's been a real treat."

Despite the challenges presented by the August flood, Putnam County voters shouldn't have any unusual difficulties at the polls today. The board was able to borrow 140 touch-screen voting machines from Franklin County.

In Hancock County, which lost about 91 of its 300 voting machines in the flood, voters might find lines a bit longer than usual. Jody O'Brien, deputy director, said the board has not replaced the damaged machines yet, but plans to get through this election with three and, in some cases,two machines per precinct.

"We had the old automated voting machines for 50 years, and for many, many years, we only had two of those in each precinct," she recalled. "People had to wait, and they never minded."


Steven Hile casts an absentee ballot in the temporary Hancock County Board of Elections headquarters in Findlay.


Ms. O'Brien said elections officials tried to promote absentee voting as an alternative for people with less patience, but she said only about 2,000 absentee ballots were cast with the board, which is about average.

Unlike Putnam County, Hancock County is not part of the 5th Congressional District and therefore does not have to accommodate today's primary election. Still, Findlay voters will be electing a mayor and at-large council member, and many of the townships and villages have candidates on the ballot.

Because of the flood, voters in Findlay precincts 4A and 4B will vote at the Sherman House at the corner of South Main and East Front Street. Their former polling place - the city-owned Anchor Community Center on East Street - was damaged in the flood and is slated for demolition.

The elections boards in Findlay and Ottawa have not been able to return to their former offices since the Blanchard River spilled over its banks last summer.

Putnam County moved its operation to the second floor of the annex building. Hancock County has been operating out of a modular office building in the parking lot outside its former home on West Main Cross Street.

After two feet of water filled the board's office, Hancock County commissioners decided the building would have to be demolished because of the extent of the damage.

Ms. O'Brien said other than the temporary inconveniences, her office is as ready as possible for today's election.

"It's like Christmas," she said. "Are you ready for Christmas? You never are, but it comes anyway."

Contact Jennifer Feehan:


or 419-353-5972.

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