Election Day is nearly here, and while voters are weighing which candidates and issues they will be supporting, the Seneca County Board of Elections is working diligently behind the scenes so citizens can fulfill their civic duty Tuesday.
Since Oct. 2, when in-person and mail absentee early voting began, the board of elections has been busy, said Andrea Carroll, deputy director of the board.
"We've had people walking in right at 8 a.m.," Carroll said. "Soon as we get here, we barely get the lights on and the machine up, and we have people walking in."
PHOTO BY ZACH GASE
Sheriff’s Deputy David Magers loads a voting machine for distribution somewhere in Seneca County.
Director Janet Leahy said the board has been busier this election due to more people voting early.
"The early voting wasn't so highly advertised in the past," she said. "Before four years ago, you had to have a reason to vote absentee. You had to be absent from the county, or disabled or elderly. Now anybody can vote early. People are taking advantage of it to avoid lines on Election Day. Unfortunately, we get long lines here sometimes."
She said despite the heavier workload during this election, the board has not faced any setbacks or surprises during the early voting.
"The state wanted us to be prepared for a lot of in-house voting," she said. "I think we've been doing pretty good. I don't think we've had anything out of the ordinary happen."
Seneca County had an 80 percent turnout in the last presidential election, in 2008, Leahy said. As of Oct. 31, the Seneca County has had 5,400 people vote early.
"We had someone say 'we haven't voted since Kennedy,'" Leahy said. "They're coming out this year to vote. I think it's just been so highly advertised, there's so much on the TVs."
Commissioner Ben Nutter said it is very easy for citizens to vote in Seneca County.
"I think the ability to vote, and the access to vote in Seneca County, is probably the envy of the rest of the state," Nutter said. "We do things here that make it so easy to vote. If you want to vote in Seneca County, you get to vote. That's a testament to the job that they've done over there at the board of elections. They've done a fantastic job, and we couldn't be happier. And they've done it in a very cost-effective manner."
While the board has been busy during the past month with early voting, Election Day is still an all-day event for the board and its poll workers.
The poll workers are to arrive at their polling location at 5:30 a.m. and are to stay until after 7:30 p.m., when the polls close, Leahy said.
Kate Hosang, who works as the presiding judge at the Reed Township precinct, said while Election Day is a long day, it's also rewarding.
"I have a daughter who lives in Saudi Arabia, and she's not even allowed to drive," Hosang said. "So, what a great country the United States is that we have the opportunity to vote."
Some of the duties for poll workers include setting up voting booths, the Automark machines for handicapped voters, hanging signs with instructions and information, and hanging the flags outside of the building so no campaigning can take place within 100 feet of the location, she said.
As a presiding judge, Hosang also is in charge of reading the oath of office.
"We just have a very long day," she said. "It's like a party; you never know who's going to walk in the door next."
She said the poll workers are to follow strict guidelines, and have to know a lot about the voting process and its rules.
"I know there's a lot of fear out there about fraud, but I don't see how it can happen," Hosang said. "In (the board of elections office) and the precincts, everything is where it should be."
But before the poll workers can set up the booths, the voting equipment has to make it to the polling locations.
Seneca County Sheriff's Deputy David Magers and his crew of workers load up all the equipment in a van and trailer and deliver it to 36 locations around the county in three days.
Each county has to find a way to distribute the supplies for Election Day, and Seneca County uses the sheriff station and some inmates to do the deliveries.
"This is a common correctional work program," Magers said. "It teaches them work skills. So it benefits the county and the workers in the program."
Even though the polls close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, the election process is still not over for the board of elections.
The board, immediately after the election, has to count all the provisional ballots, Leahy said.
The unofficial count is what is tallied up on election night, and the provisional ballots are added to the official count.
The provisional ballots include people whose addresses have changed and voters overseas and in the military whose mail-in ballots are postmarked by Election Day, Leahy said.
"Usually it doesn't make much difference in any of the races because it tends like,
how people voted on Election Day, people vote on the provisional," she said "We'll probably get a couple hundred provisionals."
As of Oct. 31, the board had received 41 provisional ballots, Leahy said.