You can count on ease at polls today

By David Skolnick

Voter turnout today is projected at 30 percent for Mahoning County, 40 percent for Trumbull.

YOUNGSTOWN — Don’t worry about long waits at polling locations in the Mahoning Valley today.

Because of early voting, a decent percentage of ballots have already been cast, said boards of elections directors in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

“I really don’t think there will be long lines” at polling locations, said Kim Meek, Columbiana board of elections director. “I don’t expect people to have delays” voting at the polls.

The three counties reported record early voting/absentee balloting for an odd-year election.

Despite the record numbers, overall turnout will be up, but not significantly, in Trumbull and Columbiana compared to 2007 and slightly down in Mahoning, elections directors predict.

Early voting “adjusts how people vote,” said Kelly Pallante, that county’s elections board director. “It doesn’t necessary increase overall turnout.”

“Early voting shifts where people vote,” added Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director. “It will be steady at the polls, but we won’t have big waves of people. It will be busy before and after work and at lunchtime. But it will be very manageable.”

About 13,000 Mahoning County residents will vote early, McCabe said.

In comparison, 6,945 Mahoning County residents voted early in 2007, the last odd-year election.

“It’s amazing,” McCabe said of the 2009 general election early voting figure. “It’s so much higher than we’ve ever done in an odd year.”

Close to 10,000 Trumbull County residents voted early this year compared to about 3,900 in 2007, Pallante said.

McCabe is expecting 30 percent overall turnout in Mahoning County for this election. Turnout was 30.7 percent in 2007.

In Trumbull County, Pallante is predicting 40 percent turnout. It was 31.5 percent two years ago.

Average turnout for the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 general elections in Trumbull County is 42 percent. Pallante says that’s why she’s predicting 40 percent for this election despite the 2007 turnout figure.

Meek is the most optimistic.

She predicts voter turnout for this general election at 40 percent to 50 percent. Turnout in Columbiana County in 2007 was 37.5 percent.

Odd-year elections primarily include local races — such as for mayor, council, trustee and school board member — and usually have lower voter turnout than even-year elections, which include county, state and federal races, local elections officials say.

Before early voting became law with the 2006 election, those who wanted to cast ballots prior to Election Day needed a reason do so.

Those reasons included being out of the county on Election Day or too ill to make it to a polling location. Now anyone can request an early voting ballot.

ELECTION DAY | When and where to vote today

Polling hours: The polls are open today in Ohio from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Polling locations are open in Pennsylvania from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Where to vote:

Don’t know your polling location?

For those in Columbiana County, go to the county board of elections Web site — — and click on “Polling Place Search.”

For those in Trumbull County, go to the county board of elections Web site — — click on “Voters” and then click on “Where Do I Vote?”

For those in Mahoning County (or anywhere in Ohio), go to the Ohio secretary of state’s Web site — — and click on “Voter Services” and then “Where Do I Vote?” You can also call the Mahoning County Board of Election at (330) 783-2474 to find your polling location. The board’s Web site doesn’t include information on polling locations.

Sources: Ohio secretary of state, Columbiana and Trumbull counties boards of elections