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Published: Wednesday, 11/9/2011

Controversial state issue brings high turnout at area polling sites

Lucas Co. elections board says process went smoothly

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
AND TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Willie Jefferson casts his vote at Toledo Police Museum. Willie Jefferson casts his vote at Toledo Police Museum.
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Julie Gallaher usually votes every Election Day, but Tuesday night was required in her mind for one reason: Issue 2.

The former Toledo Public Schools teacher who now works in Michigan was adamant -- like many people Tuesday -- about getting to the polls to cast a vote on the issue, a referendum for Senate Bill 5.

"I am a teacher and even though it doesn't affect me, I feel strongly about it," Ms. Gallaher said after casting a vote against the bill at Grace Lutheran Church on Monroe Street in West Toledo.

Lucas County voter turnout Tuesday was considered high, but not through the roof as some had predicted because of the three statewide issues on the ballot as well as contested Toledo City Council races.

The Lucas County Board of Elections reported turnout was at 42 percent of registered voters, a number that is a bit higher than what is usually expected for elections that don't include high-office races.

The election in November, 2010, brought out 46.37 percent of registered voters, and the one in November, 2009, brought out 37.5 percent.

At the Lucas County early voting center, employees started the hours-long process of counting the thousands of votes -- mostly by feeding cards into voting machines -- just after 8:45 p.m.

Ben Roberts, executive director of the elections board, said the 13-hour voting process at polling places across the county went smoothly.

"We had some problems with some machines not starting up, but it was a simple telephone-call walk-through to get them started," he said Tuesday night.

Officials in surrounding counties reported similar participation and no real problems.

At a Middleton Township North precinct in Wood County, more than 500 voters had turned out at the polls by 5 p.m. Poll workers there said it was busier than "the last presidential election."

A similar situation unfolded in Ottawa County's Danbury Township's precincts 4 and 5, where by 4 p.m. the 500th person voted at Grace Baptist Church on Port Clinton Eastern Road. Poll workers reported being extremely busy all day, despite having to use a generator for power from about 2:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. while Ohio Edison worked on a substation issue that left about 1,000 residences and businesses in the area without electricity.

The outage was not affecting the voting process, poll workers said.

JoAnn Friar, elections director in Ottawa County, estimated a 52 percent voter turnout earlier in the night.

"I hope I'm wrong, I hope it's even higher," she said. "But I'll be pleased if it is 52 percent. That's higher than most off-year elections."

Voter turnout there ended up at 56 percent.

In Fulton County, elections director Kandice Lemley said there was no trouble with voting machines and workers checked out one unfounded complaint about a campaign sign too close to a polling location. Otherwise, things ran smoothly with a larger turnout than normal, she said.

In Lucas County, some Toledo firefighters stationed themselves near polling locations to campaign against Issue 2, and there were some reports of firefighters voting in their uniforms or gear, but union officials said there was no suggestion from the union for members to wear uniforms or gear to go vote.

Issue 2, which was defeated, would have limited collective bargaining power for public employees, including firefighters.

The uniforms at polling locations did raise questions.

However, Dan DeAngelis, deputy director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said poll workers were instructed that someone wearing a police or fire uniform -- or even a union shirt -- does not constitute campaigning and was therefore OK. Campaigning is allowed outside polling locations if the campaigners are more than 100 feet from the location's entrance.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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