Thousands of voters in the Akron area and across Ohio headed to the polls Tuesdayfor the special election to determine whether Issue 1 will define strict new rules for public attempts to amend the state constitution. Polls closed at 7:30 p.m.
Some local poll workers experienced difficulties handling new equipment, a Summit County Board of Elections official said, but he said voting has not been affected.
Deputy Director Pete Zeigler said no machines malfunctioned, correcting earlier reports, and said poll workers’ unfamiliarity with new machines was to blame for incidents of ballots not properly feeding into scanners.
“These machines have not malfunctioned; this has only been happening because of poll workers struggling to learn the new equipment.” Zeigler said, adding that a couple of machines were involved. “At no point was voting halted. They only swapped out machines as a precaution.”
A back-up process was used to keep voting moving along in limited instances, he said; otherwise, everything was proceeding normally.
The election is the culmination of months of debate between supporters who say Issue 1 will protect Ohio’s constitution from outside influence and opponents who say the ballot initiative interferes with the democratic process and will deny voters the chance to weigh in on issues such as abortion rights.
If the initiative is approved, Ohio would require 60% of voters to pass a new constitutional amendment, instead of a simple majority of 50% plus one. Citizens wanting to place an amendment on the ballot would have to collect signatures from at least 5% of voters from the last gubernatorial election in all 88 counties, instead of the current 44.
This measure would also eliminate a 10-day cure period that allows for the replacement of any signatures deemed faulty by the secretary of state’s office.
Since early voting began statewide on July 11, an average of nearly 1,200 absentee ballots have been cast each day in Summit County. Of the 30,104 early ballots requested in person or by mail, Summit County residents have returned and voted 28,162 of them.
Among these 30,104 voters, 42.3% are registered Democrats, 17.4% are registered Republicans and 40.3% are not affiliated with either major political party.
In Portage County, 8,721 completed ballots were counted during the early voting period, including 6,029 in person and 2,692 received by mail. The county did not track voters’ party affiliations.
The Beacon Journal is looked in on the scene at various polling places across the area throughout the day.
6 p.m., Akron
In an interview at the Summit County Board of Elections, Pete Zeigler, the deputy director, said that while various polling locations experienced “hiccups” adapting to new voting machines, he did not expect these to cause any delays in the vote-counting process.
“We anticipate that every legally cast ballot will be counted before it leaves the location tonight,” Ziegler said.
5:24 p.m., Stow
Steady foot traffic of voters was heading to Stow City Hall in the early evening.On their way out, one woman said she voted in favor of Issue 1, saying that it was time for a change — and that the state needed to increase the threshold required to pass amendments to save off outside influence.She also said Issue 1 would protect small towns from the influence of larger cities like Cleveland and Akron.
Allison Paul, exiting City Hall with her young son, said she voted “no” because she doesn’t want the government to be able to override a majority of citizens.A poll worker described the equipment as being “finicky,” but said nothing had been rejected outright by the machines.
4:35 p.m., Wadsworth
A steady flow of people observed seen entering and exiting Ella Everhard Public Library in Wadsworth.
A poll worker said there had not been any issues there as the Medina County location’s 593rd vote of the day was counted.
4:10 p.m., Hudson
A woman exiting the polling location inside the Hudson Library and Historical Society said Issue 1 was confusing to her, but she voted still voted “no.”
“Listening to these fearmongering ads was horrible,” she said. “I just figured I would play it safe and keep everything the same.”
Lou Hanink said she voted “yes” because she believes more than a majority should be required to amend the constitution.
Marsha and David Rais both voted “yes” as well.
“I don’t think majority rule is such a great idea,” David said; Marsha added that their anti-abortion convictions played a part as well.
Poll worker Joel Speck said there had been some difficulties trying to feed ballots into the machines, but Board of Elections workers stopped by to make adjustments that resolved the issue.
3:02 p.m., Northwest Akron
Resnik Community Learning Center was busy with mid-afternoon voters. A voter watched as a ballot that was inserted just ahead of her own became jammed in a scanning machine, but she said she was able to feed her ballot into a scanner and it was marked as read.
2:26 p.m., Wallhaven
At St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Akron’s Wallhaven neighborhood, Monica Early was in the midst of transporting friends to and from the polls after she participated in early voting last week.
She described Issue 1 as “a blatant effort by the state of Ohio Republican Party” to circumvent the abortion initiative that’s appearing on the ballot in November.
“They know they’re probably going to lose seats; they know it’ll pass — and so the ‘no-tax-and-spend’ party spent $20 million for one — excuse me — freaking issue,” Early said.
Jane Hull and Susan Baranoff both said they voted “no” as well.
“It eclipses citizens from having the right or the authority to amend our constitution, which means all amendments come strictly from our gerrymandered legislature,” Hull said.
Baranoff said she voted “no” because she doesn’t believe in minority rule. She called the Issue 1 effort “a travesty of democracy” and said it was shameful for Ohio lawmakers to have allowed a special election to try to pass it.
Health care worker Janet Malaime said she was casting a “no” vote, and called raising the bar above a simple majority for constitutional amendments “undemocratic.”
1:47 p.m., Highland Square
A brief power outage affected FirstEnergy customers in Akron’s Highland Square neighborhood, but the Summit County Board of Elections said voting at the Akron-Summit County Public Library branch there was not affected.
1:45 p.m., Copley
There were few lulls in the action during a 25-minute visit to Copley High School as voters cast their ballots.
One voter said she voted “yes” at her husband’s direction, and because of their Christian beliefs.
Another said a higher threshold should be required to amend Ohio’s constitution.
Sonja Crooks said she was voting “no” because she didn’t believe a change was necessary, and because special interest groups including abortion opponents are behind the push to pass Issue 1.
Joel Kirbawy said he was undecided when he walked into the voting booth, but emerged having cast a “no” vote.
“I think a (simple) majority is enough,” he said of his decision.
Poll worker Michael Lubes said the new voting machines took some getting used to, with some minor issues that were quickly cleared up. One machine didn’t have the right power cord; another wasn’t immediately accepting ballots.
“For a couple hours, until a roaming (Summit County Board of Elections) team came through, we had to feed the ballot up to eight to nine times before it would catch,” Lubes said. “Luckily, we weren’t so busy that people were backed up.”
Everything ran smoothly after the team’s visit, he said.
12:46 p.m., Green
A steady stream of voters moved in and out of Green’s Queen of Heaven Catholic Church, 1800 Steese Road, during the Tuesday lunch hour.
One voter, Thomas Schweikert, said he voted “no” on Issue 1 because the new regulations would make it unduly difficult to amend the state constitution. He called the proposed amendment “excessive.”
“I don’t think amending the constitution should be the easiest thing in the world, but making it that difficult, it makes it almost impossible for the people to the amend the constitution,” he said.
On the flip side of the issue is Rick Jacobson. Jacobson voted “yes” for Issue 1 because, he said, “I thought it was harder to amend the constitution in the first place.”
He said a foundational document like a state constitution should require a higher threshold than a simple majority to amend. Issue 1, he said, counteracts people’s tendency to get emotional about a topic that’s not that urgent, leading to irrational decisions.
12:20 p.m., Akron
Beacon Journal news partner News 5 Cleveland reported that some Summit County voting sites were experiencing problems with new voting equipment, beyond the site of an issue reported earlier in Cuyahoga Falls.
Summit County Board of Elections officials said they were working to repair or replace affected machines; unscanned ballots were being stored in orange auxiliary bags according to protocol overseen by Democratic and Republican poll workers and were to scanned when the issue was resolved.
11:44 a.m., Barberton
One of the more difficult to predict aspects of voter turnout is the weather’s impact on Election Day.
Throughout Tuesday morning, local voters were treated to agreeable conditions with partly cloudy skies and temperatures rising from the upper 60s into the 70s.
While the weather was pleasant, only a trickle of voters was seen over the course of 35 minutes in the polling area at the otherwise busy Active Adult Center at 500 W. Hopocan Ave. in Barberton.
One voter said she was against Issue 1 because she believes Republicans are trying to silence the majority of voters, and she wants to protect women’s rights.
Another voter said he was in favor of Issue 1 because raising the minimum vote for passage of amendments to 60% silences the influence of outside interest groups and makes it harder for the abortion rights amendment to pass in November.
11:31 a.m., Stow
Voting was busy and constant, and poll workers said it had been that way all day, at Stow Presbyterian Church, 4150 Fishcreek Road. A voter there said she saw a cross-section of ages turning out for the election, and the meter on the ballot scanner measured her vote as No. 320.
11:30 a.m., Coventry Twp.
Few people were to be seen visiting the voting booths at Firestone Metro Park’s Coventry Oaks Lodge, but one voter noted there were 115 votes cast there up to that point according to the machine that collects and scans ballots.
Poll workers there told him the machine was being finicky, and it took two attempts to feed his ballot into it
10:42 a.m., Middlebury/East Akron
Mid-morning turnout appeared sparse at East Community Learning Center, 80 Brittain Road, in Akron.
One voter said he voted “yes” because he felt that the current 50% plus one benchmark for passage is too low a bar to create an amendment.
Sheila Hynds said she voted “no” because the current rules do not need to be changed.
Ruth Swartz said she voted against Issue 1 because she is looking out for her grandchildren.
“Republicans aren’t representing us correctly,” she said. “They are trying to take away women’s rights and are leading this country backwards.”
10:20 a.m., Cuyahoga Falls
News 5 Cleveland reported issues involving ballot scanners at The Church in the Falls, 837 Chestnut Blvd. The location serves Cuyahoga Falls precincts 2A and 2B.
Workers told News 5’s Mike Holden they were putting the ballots in a special orange box to be counted later.
10:03 a.m., Tallmadge
Voting was light during a 25-minute stretch at the Tallmadge Community Center at 80 Community Road. Several people there said they voted in favor of Issue 1.
Kimberly Fleming said adopting new rules is the “right thing to do” to give everyone a chance in the state’s smaller counties.
Barbara Davis said her “yes” vote will help to shield Ohio’s constitution from attempts to alter it with future statewide initiatives, asking: “Why change?”
Lindsey Schulz said voted for Issue 1 because the 60% threshold for passage makes it more difficult for either party to sway or bribe voters.
8:48 a.m., Cuyahoga Falls
The voting scene was busy at Community Vineyard Church at 2543 State Road in Cuyahoga Falls during a half-hour visit.
Bernadette Harris voted yes on Issue 1. She said it “should be more difficult to change the constitution, written and deliberated by wise men — and citizens shouldn’t be allowed to amend so easily.”
Caitlin Stritch voted against it, saying she wants to protect women’s rights; she asked why the government would want to make it harder for people to exercise their rights.
Richard Beoung said he did not like the 60% approval threshold that a ballot initiative would need to pass. He said he voted against the issue to protect the principle of “one person, one ballot.”
8:09 a.m., Bath
Ahead of the start of the workday for many, about 20 people streamed in and out of the polling station at Bath United Church of Christ, 3980 W. Bath Road, over the course of 20 minutes that Beacon Journal staffers spent outside.
Brianna Jarvis said she voted against Issue 1 because she believes the bill will hurt Ohio’s democracy.
Two men there said they voted yes, with one saying he believes that amending the constitution should be more difficult than it currently is.
Doug Livingston, Chad Murphy, April Helms, Jennifer Pignolet and Diane Smith contributed to this story.