`The Mahoning County Board of Elections is hosting a cookout and voter rally Saturday.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- It can be challenging to motivate young people to participate in the election process.
But when you throw in free food and beverages, bands, games, music, dancing, prizes and contests, it gets a bit easier.
Mahoning County Board of Elections will have a Get in Touch cookout and a Rock the Vote rally 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Clear Channel Radio Youngstown building, 7461 South Ave. in Boardman.
"Young people don't vote as much as senior citizens," said Ray Butler, the board's community liaison, who is organizing the event. "They see the system as unreliable and that they are excluded from the process. We want to assure them that their vote will be counted."
The event's purpose is twofold, Butler said. First, the elections board will have voter registration forms on hand. Second, the county's new electronic voting system will be on display allowing those attending the cookout and rally to test it for themselves.
The county invested $2.9 million in the touch-screen electronic voting system. The system was used in Youngstown during the May primary, and will be used countywide beginning with the Nov. 5 general election. Mahoning County had used paper ballots for the previous 17 years.
County election officials say the new system is more flexible than paper ballots, has less of a chance for voter error and over-voting, and will be cost-effective over a long period of time because the county will no longer have to pay the cost of printing ballots.
Because of county budgetary constraints, the elections board found corporate sponsors to pay for the event, Butler said. The event's co-sponsors are Clear Channel Radio [Kiss FM 95.9], Adamas Jewelry and Gifts, Alltel, Election Systems and Software, the League of Women Voters, Nemenz IGA Super Centers, Pepsi, The Vindicator, Youngstown State University and Youngstown Lithographing.
"We're hoping that this event proves that the community can come together and do something for the folks we serve," Butler said. "We want people to come out and have a good time. We're inviting the community to come out. It's completely free."
Candidates running in the November election are encouraged to attend, but they are not permitted to campaign at the event, Butler said.
"It's strictly nonpolitical," he said.