Butler County may see record voter turnout

Voters at Garfield Elementary school in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH/STAFF
Voters at Garfield Elementary school in Hamilton. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Butler County voters, fueled by the heated presidential race, came out in record numbers this year, according to the board of elections.

Explore RESULTS: Latest Butler County election results

Early voting in Butler County exceeded 57,000, eclipsing the 2012 record high by 35 percent, said Jocelyn Bucaro, the deputy director at the county elections office.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, 66,053 votes were counted and that represented 26 percent of the 248,120 registered voters, officials said.

Elections officials projected 175,000 people would vote in this election, which would exceed 2012 vote totals and likely match 2008 totals.

Officials said voter turnout was higher across the county with the greatest turnouts in the cities of Fairfield and Oxford and in West Chester Twp., Fairfield Twp., and Liberty Twp.

There were 1,560 voting machines at the 89 polling locations in Butler County, which Bucaro said was the highest in county history.

Despite the record numbers, few issues were reported at Butler County polling sites, officials said. Most problems were people trying to vote without proper identification, officials said.

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Those people were asked to return to their polling location when they had proper identification, board of elections officials said.

Ohio law states that a person must have a valid Ohio driver’s license or state-issued identification.

Hamilton resident John Straub said his wife was one of those people who were turned away because she forgot her driver’s license. She had her Social Security card, but that’s not a valid form of identification because it has no address.

“I was just surprised that would not be (a valid identification),” Straub said.

Also at Adena Elementary in West Chester Twp., and Amanda Elementary in Middletown, the machines were not operating at 6:30 a.m. when polls opened, Bucaro said. She said it took about 30 minutes for machines to get up and running, and voters in line when polls opened were asked to vote on paper ballots.

Two extra poll workers were sent with an extra electronic pollbook to Miami University’s Shriver Center in Oxford because of the large student turnout. Bucaro said as of 4 p.m., there was about a 20-minute wait.

Rebekah Bolser, 20, a student at Miami University and political activist on campus and in the Butler County community, said her vote included thinking about what the Supreme Court will look like in the future.

“Today is probably the most important election of my generation. With the next president nominating anywhere from two to four justices, this election isn’t about defining the next four years. It’s about defining the next 40 years,” Bolser said. “Our next president is going to have a lot of work to in terms of uniting our country. I do think the fractions that divide us are more prominent than ever and we need someone who doesn’t exclude people from their vision of America.”

Carole Braswell, 54, of Hamilton, said there was no better way to celebrate her birthday than to go cast a vote. She also wanted to make sure her vote went to potentially the first woman president in U.S. history.

“Our votes today are more important than possibly any other election day in history,” Braswell said. “For me, the decision was clear. I want a well-educated, experienced person who will appropriately represent our country. One whom I don’t fear will embarrass me in front of other countries. One who I trust with the tough decisions on serious global issues. I’m with (Hillary Clinton).”

One Ross Twp. voter stood outside Ross Middle School for several hours Tuesday, waving an American flag and encouraging people to “do the right thing.”

Dustin C. Schermbeck said he is voting for Trump because he can right the country.

“I am a red-blooded American that likes apple pie and Chevrolet and I want my country back,” he said. “If Mr. Trump gets in there, he’s a businessman and he’ll be able to right a lot of the wrongs in the country.”

Jenni Hubbard, co-owner of the Almond Sisters Bakery, decided to have some fun on Election Day and create a sweet treat to help soothe the tensions that have mounted during the months of campaigning for local, statewide and the presidential races.

Hubbard created voting cookies that she hoped would add some levity to Election Day. One had the “I voted” slogan and the other a more humorous statement — “I farted.”

“I just wanted to lighten the mood and tension about voting,” she said.

Staff writers Michael D. Pitman, Denise G. Callahan and Wayne Baker contributed to this report.