Thousands cast early, absentee ballots in Stark CountyAlthough some citizens took to the polls before Tuesday to avoid the Election Day rush, lines were still evident for early voting Friday afternoon at the Stark County Courthouse.
By: Bryan Horwath, The Dickinson Press
Although some citizens took to the polls before Tuesday to avoid the Election Day rush, lines were still evident for early voting Friday afternoon at the Stark County Courthouse.
Early voting in the county began Oct. 29 and voters will have one more window to cast their ballot before Election Day as the polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“I had a free afternoon and I decided to come down and cast my ballot,” said Gerry Badinger of Dickinson from the courthouse steps Friday afternoon. “This is the first year I’ve participated in early voting. I’d say there were about 10 people ahead of me, but I was in and out pretty quick.”
Becoming more of a popular trend in recent elections nationwide, Stark County is also experiencing an uptick in pre-Election Day balloting, said county auditor Kay Haag.
“There’s no question that there have more people out to vote early this year than during the last presidential election in 2008,” Haag said. “Part of that is just the fact that we have more residents here now and part of it, I think, is that early voting is becoming more popular.”
In the 2008 election — more voters typically show up to the polls during presidential elections — a total of 4,306 residents voted early in Stark County. As of 2:30 p.m. Friday, 2,380 had voted at the Stark County Courthouse — the only county hub where early voting was available — and the walk-up, according to the county auditor’s office, was steady until the close of the business day.
First-time early voter Liane Filkowski of Dickinson got off work a little early Friday and headed straight to the courthouse to make her voice heard.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Filkowski said. “The main reason I wanted to come down early is just to not wait in line. I’m sure it will be quite busy on Tuesday.”
The county also is witnessing a big increase in absentee ballots cast. As of Friday, Haag said her office had received 2,230 absentee ballots back out of a total of 2,789 that were sent out. In the 2008 election, Stark County counted 1,525 absentee ballots.
“We’ve gotten a lot more of those ballots this time around,” Haag said. “And people should take note that, as long as their absentee ballot is postmarked Nov. 5 or earlier, we’ll accept it.”
Early voting in some key presidential election swing states has produced hours-long lines and waits. In Florida, reports this week had some waiting as long as several hours to vote.