Lines in Clark, Champaign counties grow on final day of early voting; Election Day turnout unclear, officials say

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Lines of residents waited to cast ballots in Clark and Champaign counties on Monday as it marked the last day for early voting in this year’s presidential election.

It was taking voters in Clark County about 40 minutes to work their way through the lines, while the backup in Champaign County was about 2 hours at times.

There has been a record number of absentee ballots cast for this election cycle in both counties, whether its through the mail or in-person. This has made it hard for local election officials to predict what voter turnout will be on Election Day, Tuesday.

Poll locations will be open Tuesday throughout Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Voters will able to drop off absentee ballots at their county board of elections office until 7:30 p.m.

As of Sunday, Clark County election officials reported that 43.5% of registered voters had cast a ballot. In Champaign County, a local election official estimated that nearly half of the county’s eligible voters had cast a ballot as of Monday afternoon.

In-person early voting officially ended at 2 p.m., Monday afternoon in Ohio. However, those that were in line at their local election offices by that time were still allowed to vote early.

Absentee voting in both counties has nearly doubled for this year’s presidential election when compared to the same election in 2016.

As of Monday, a total of 41,863 absentee ballots have been accounted for in Clark County, with 20,656 being sent through the mail and 20,835 people have voting in-person. During the same election in 2016, that number was 23,134, with 11,246 sent through the mail and 11,510 people voting in-person.

In Champaign County, election officials have reported 12,268 absentee ballots being casted, with 5,260 sent through the mail or dropped off and 6,770 people have voted in-person. During the same period in 2016, total absentee voting in the county amounted to 6,375 ballots, with 2,943 by mail and 3,199 in-person.

Jodi Flora, the deputy director for the Champaign County Board of Elections, said voter turnout has been mostly consistent since early voting started for this election on Oct. 6.

Long lines developed outside of the Champaign County elections' office on Monday. Flora said they usually see an uptick in early voting in the days leading up to a presidential election. But, this year’s turnout has been unprecedented, she added.

“Normally we see an increase. There are usually a lot of people who want to get their vote in before election day. But, it has never been this busy,” Flora said, noting that it has made it hard to predict turnout on election day due to the record number of absentee voting.

Flora said that presidential elections usually bring out a higher turnout. But, as the coronavirus pandemic has continued, she believes it has contributed to the record number of early voting in the county.

Champaign County resident Linda Rochery said that she waited nearly two hours to cast a ballot on Monday. At 66-years-old, she said that it was her first time voting.

“I didn’t want to stand in the big lines tomorrow and I thought that I had a better chance doing it (Monday),” Rochery said.

“I didn’t think my vote would really make a difference. Now I want our votes to make a difference and I think they will,” she said of her decision to vote for the first time.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

In Clark County, there was a steady line of voters throughout Monday at its early voting location in downtown Springfield. Election officials had moved that location out of its Board of Elections' office prior to the start of early voting to allow for more voting check-in stations and social distancing.

Amber Lopez, the deputy director for the Clark County Board of Elections, said that they are expecting a total voter turnout, including the absentee ballots already cast, of a little over 70% in the county.

Lopez said they are expecting a high turnout overall for this election. But local election officials hope that the large number of early voters will take off some of the pressure for election staff on Tuesday.

In terms of reporting election results Tuesday night, Lopez said that process is expected to stay relatively the same. Most absentee ballots have been returned to the Board of Elections. However, a little over 1,800 mail-out ballots had not been returned to election officials in the county as of Sunday.

Flora said that number in Champaign County was 304 as of Monday afternoon.

Lopez said that after election night, ballots that would still need to be counted are those that have yet to be returned and provisional ballots.

By the numbers:

41,863: Number of absentee ballots cast as of Monday afternoon in Clark County

23,134: Number of absentee ballots cast in Clark County during the entirety of the presidential election in 2016

12,268: Number of absentee ballots cast as of Monday afternoon in Champaign County

6,375: Number of absentee ballots cast in Champaign County during the entirety of the presidential election in 2016

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