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Early voting off to slow start in Clark County

Early voting began last week for the Aug. 5 special election.

The lone issue voters will decide is Northeastern Local School’s request for a 1-percent earned income tax.

The tax is projected to raise more than $4.1 million a year for five years, the equivalent of an additional 9.08 mills in property tax, according to a resolution passed by the school board.

Voters have previously rejected additional levies for the district in November 2012, as well as August and November 2013.

Clark County Board of Elections Director Matthew Tlachac said turnout for the election likely will be low.

Tlachac said his staff has mailed out just 30 absentee ballots and during the first couple days of early voting fewer than 10 ballots had been cast.

“It’s been slow going. It should pick up as we get closer to August,” Tlachac said.

Clark County voters can cast absentee ballots through Aug. 4, including on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday leading up to Election Day.

In-person voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Voting hours are from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 2, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3, and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 4.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted last month set uniform hours for all future elections after a federal court order ruled against the previously set hours that had eliminated voting on the Sunday and Monday before an election.

Additional changes to early voting could come as the Ohio Conference of the NAACP, League of Women Voters of Ohio and several black churches filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to expand early voting in Ohio and restore the so-called Golden Week, a time when voters can register and cast a ballot on the same day.

The complaint said changes to the state’s election laws make it tougher for tens of thousands of Ohioans to vote and is in violation of the 14th Amendment.

“The effects of these changes will be felt most keenly among lower-income voters who are predominately African-American, causing them to have less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice,” according to the lawsuit.

Matthew McClellan, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, said all Ohio voters are treated the same and have the ability to vote 24 hours, seven days a week with absentee ballots that can be mailed to their homes.

“By no definition can Ohio’s voting schedule be considered voter suppression,” McClellan said.

The Secretary of State’s Office will continue to follow the guidelines set by the courts, he said.

Voters need certainty about the elections process, McClellan said, and that tying up the office with lawsuits won’t help.

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