Convenience, pandemic and security top reasons for voting early, local residents say

Rick Smith, a Warren County precinct official talks to voters in line for early voting Saturday at the Warren County Board of Elections office. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Rick Smith, a Warren County precinct official talks to voters in line for early voting Saturday at the Warren County Board of Elections office. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Voters in Butler and Warren counties, some clad in Halloween costumes, lined up early to vote Saturday morning, The early voting period ends Monday. Tuesday is Election Day.

Elections officials in both counties said at 8 a.m. the lines were long and the wait was nearly an hour. By midday, the lines looked deceptively long but were moving smoothly as voters were taking 20 to 30 minutes to complete their ballots.

Eric Corbin, Butler County deputy elections director, said the county has already received 100,000 ballots from citizens voting early in-person or by mail. Butler County has more than 256,000 registered voters.

“It’s been crazy,” he said. “This morning we had people lined up the wrong way and line stretched to the dead-end of Princeton Road. After we got everyone turned around, it’s been very smooth and we’ve received lots of good feedback and the lines move quickly.”

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As of Saturday afternoon, Corbin said the county still has about 9,000 absentee ballots that were sent out and need to be at the county Board of Elections by 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. However, he said there are no concerns as the elections board received the same amount of absentee ballots on primary election day this spring.

While people like the election day experience of going to the polls, Corbin said the increase in early voting was by driven by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by the heightened awareness of the election campaigns and concerns about absentee ballots getting delayed by the Postal Service.

The line looked deceptively long but actually went quick for residents voting early Saturday at the Butler County Board of Elections. ED RICHTER/STAFF
The line looked deceptively long but actually went quick for residents voting early Saturday at the Butler County Board of Elections. ED RICHTER/STAFF

Jennifer Sagedal of Trenton was in line with her husband James. While he had already voted a couple of weeks ago with his daughter, she said this was the first time she has voted since George W. Bush ran for president and Butler County was using paper ballots at the time.

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“I wasn’t going to vote because the politicians tell you what they want to tell you and they don’t tell the truth,” she said. “I just wonder what Tuesday will look like.”

James Sagedal said the lines are quick and voting early is more secure than mailing a ballot in.

Silvia Erskine, right, son Elliot, and Ashley Erskine, all of Oxford, wore their Halloween costumes as they stood in line to vote early Saturday at the Butler County Board of Elections. ED RICHTER/STAFF
Silvia Erskine, right, son Elliot, and Ashley Erskine, all of Oxford, wore their Halloween costumes as they stood in line to vote early Saturday at the Butler County Board of Elections. ED RICHTER/STAFF

James Wendel of Fairfield said he thought the early voting went very smoothly Saturday. A business owner, he said he was concerned about getting to the polls on time on Tuesday. It was also the first time he had every voted early, adding that it was much more relaxed.

WARREN COUNTY

Warren CountyElections Director Brian Sleeth was on his way to the Lebanon post office to mail the last 30 absentee ballots to voters.

“We’ve been busy all morning and have not had any problems at all,” he said. “As of 8 a.m., we have had 85,084 residents cast early ballots by mail or in person. "I think there are many reasons why early voting has increased such as COVID-19, the atmosphere of the election season and both political parties are calling voters to remind them to vote or have mailed absentee ballot applications out.”

Sleeth thinks Tuesday will be slow at the polls but believes 80% of the county’s more than 168,000 registered voters will cast their votes.

The line in Warren County wrapped around the Common Pleas Courthouse at 8 a.m. Precinct official Rick Smith was wearing an “Uncle Sam” costume as he spoke to voters waiting in line and answered any questions that came up.

Robert Dooley of South Lebanon said he tried to come and vote a couple of times but was deterred by the long lines. On Saturday, Dooley said it took about 20-30 minutes to vote and that it was very smooth. He said he always votes in person and that snail mail isn’t the fastest way to vote.

“I’m a consistent voter and you can’t complain if you don’t vote.”

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