More than 65 percent of the Franklin County’s population is registered to vote.
And with only a few days left before Election Day, a big question on the minds of local election officials, candidates and voters is what percentage of those registered actually will turn out to vote.
Hundreds of people have cast their votes early, Shari Perry, Franklin County election officer, said, perhaps in an attempt to avoid the Election Day rush. As of Tuesday, 534 residents had voted in advance in the clerk’s office. Also, 399 of the 663 ballots Perry’s office mailed out already have been returned.
“It’s been a steady stream, but it’s been nothing like what we had four years ago,” Perry said, referring to the 2008 presidential election. “Four years ago, we had people stand out in the hall. We haven’t had that yet, but it’s been a steady stream.”
Early voting is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until Monday in the clerk’s office in the Franklin County Courthouse, 315 S. Main St., Ottawa. Residents also may advance vote from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in the clerk’s office. Residents may only advance vote in the clerk’s office, said. Early voting does not take place at residents’ designated polling places.
Franklin County has 17,109 registered voters, Perry said. That number is up more than 3 percent from the presidential election in 2008. The clerk’s office has recorded 8,493 registered Republicans, 4,866 unaffiliated, 3,618 Democrats, 116 Libertarian, 14 Reform and two American Elect voters in the county.
A few people in the county have been purged from the voter rolls, Perry said, because of relocation or death, but none have been purged because of any type of voter fraud.
Perry expects voter turnout to be somewhere in the 45- to 50-percent range this year. The county reported just shy of 5,300 votes in August’s primary election, with nearly 85 percent of the voters casting Republican ballots. About one-third of the county’s registered voters cast ballots in the primary.
Even with the more than 530 advanced ballots cast, the county still is behind the pace set four years ago, Perry said. More than 1,600 people voted before the 2008 election in the clerk’s office, and 865 ballots were mailed out that year, Perry said.
“It is a little slower than four years ago,” Perry said.
Election Day polls open 7 a.m. Tuesday and will remain open until 7 p.m. Voters must have a valid ID to cast their ballots.
It is unclear at this point what effect, if any, the damage and massive flooding from Hurricane Sandy will have nationally on voter turnout and the ability to gather votes in the Northeast, Perry said.
“We did have the floods the one year, and the National Guard got involved in it,” Perry said. “We did take some ballots by boat to a couple people that year, but I don’t know what we’ll do there [on the East Coast]. That’s much more than we’ve ever had.”