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Low Voter Turnout Puzzles Board of Elections

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Ohio University student Vincent Nicolella hoped to vote on Election Day 2012. The freshman business student walked to the Athens County Board of Elections on S. Court Street, only to be sent to Ohio University’s Baker Center to vote. At Baker Center, Nicolella found out he needed a proof of residency form from administration at Lasher Hall. Finally, after picking up the document and sitting through a class, Nicolella voted in the presidential election for the first time in his life.

Nicolella, who already balances a busy class schedule with practices for the Ohio University Men’s Ice Hockey team, felt a lack of communication between the university and the county and students hoping to vote.

“It was not very convenient with my class schedule,” said Nicolella. “I just wanted to do my duty as an American and vote.”

Most registered voters in Athens County completely avoided the frustration and confusion at the polls. About 55 percent of registered voters, 26,478 of 47,858, filled out ballots in Athens County. In the 2008 presidential election between democratic nominee Barack Obama and republican nominee John McCain, nearly 60 percent of registered voters cast votes, according to statistics from the Athens County Board of Elections.

The Athens County Board of Elections aimed several campaigns towards attracting voters. Debbie Quivey, the Director of the Athens County Board of Elections, failed to understand the low voter turnout, believing the Athens County Board of Elections tried everything possible to encourage voter registration and participation.

“This year, if you did not turn out for this election, it was the voter’s fault,” said Quivey.

Quivey noted a strenuous effort by the Athens County Board of Elections to attract voters through an increased presence on campus and around the city, in addition to a campaign run by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who sent out reminders to unregistered voters, encouraging voter registration, and to registered voters, encouraging participation on Election Day.

On Nov. 6, lines moved fairly smoothly at the Athens County Board of Elections and Ohio University’s Baker Center. During federal elections, the Athens County Board of Elections sometimes fills up, causing longer waits and frustrated voters. Possibly due to the low voter turnout, no significant problems arose.

“Usually some people are upset with the lines,” said Quivey. “Nobody really seemed too bothered this year.”

The Democrats won the majority of elections in Athens. President Barack Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney 66 percent to 31 percent in Athens County, identical percentages to the race for a seat in the United States Senate between democratic nominee Sherrod Brown and republican nominee Josh Mandel.

Athens City Council Law Director Pat Lang, a democrat, lost the election for a representative to Congress from the 15th district position to republican Steve Stivers, but won Athens County, 70 percent to 30 percent. Lang won only Athens County in the 15th district.

The Athens County Board of Elections hopes to start registering voters earlier in future elections and experimenting with new methods of encouraging registered voters to vote.

 

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