Wednesday, November 8th, 2006
By Timothy Cox
Voters turn out in heavy numbers
Mercer and Auglaize counties
  Voter turnout was heavier than expected in both Mercer and Auglaize counties.
Mercer County Election officials dealt with a technical glitch with some of the county's touch screen voting machines early in the day, but otherwise reported smooth sailing. A first-time statewide requirement for voters to show identification also did not slow down voting, Mercer County Elections Director Denise Fullenkamp said.
Fullenkamp had estimated a voter turnout rate of 49 percent. The actual turnout of 55 percent ranks among the highest in the state.
Approximately 16,893 of Mercer County's 30,705 registered voters cast ballots. Included in that count are 1,383 absentee ballots. Another 534 provisional ballots remain uncounted until the elections board's official count on Nov. 20.
Turnout in Auglaize County was 51.5 percent, also greater than expected.
Auglaize County Elections Director Carolyn Campbell said she gives "two points for the paper ballots." Auglaize County uses optical scan voting, with voters filling in circles, while Mercer County uses touch screen voting machines.
"Just think of the electronic voting machines - in those precincts you can only vote four or six people at a time. With the old-fashioned paper ballots we were able to vote eight to 10 at a time. Think of the lines if we hadn't used paper," Campbell said.
Of Auglaize County's 32,000 registered voters, 16,877 voted including 1,750 absentee ballots. In addition there were 600 provisional ballots.
Campbell commented the addition of provisional ballot workers in city precincts in St. Marys and Wapakoneta worked out very well.
"Provisional voters could fill out all their paperwork at those central desks rather than having each precinct involved in that process," she said.
There were 3 million Ohio votes cast in Tuesday's election, or 39.7 percent of Ohio's 7 million registered voters, according to the final count of Tuesday's election.
Turnout in 2001 and 2003 elections was 36 percent and 36.6 percent, respectively.
The highest turnout by percentage was in Noble County, 60.2 percent. The lowest turnout by percentage was 28.9 percent, in Franklin County.
Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the office of Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, said interest in the five statewide ballot issues was the reason for the higher turnout.
Local voters bucked several statewide trends, including support for several state office candidates.
County voters supported Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell. The Democratic win across the state - Ted Strickland as governor, Jennifer Brunner as secretary of state and Marc Dann as attorney general - went against local results. County voters also were in the minority in the U.S. Senate race that saw incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine soundly defeated by Democrat Sherrod Brown.
In Auglaize County, voters also supported the majority of the state's losing candidates. Winners in Auglaize included Repub-licans Blackwell and DeWine.
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