For the first time, the elections board will be open Sundays.

By Peter H. Milliken

For the first time, the elections board will be open Sundays.

YOUNGSTOWN — Mahoning County commissioners have added $100,000 to the county board of elections budget to cover the high costs associated with this year’s presidential election.

The commissioners took the action Thursday, adding $83,000 for printing costs and $17,000 for payroll for temporary employees. “It’s costly for extra part-time help. It’s costly for overtime,” said Joyce Kale-Pesta, deputy elections director.

Kale-Pesta, whose department started the year with a $1.9 million budget, said she expects to ask the commissioners for $400,000 to $500,000 more to meet this year’s election costs.

She explained some of the increased costs stem from new unfunded mandates from the Ohio Secretary of State, many of which pertain to election security. Kale-Pesta displayed at the meeting two thick, loose-leaf binders full of the new 2008 election mandates her department must meet.

“These directives are costly to the county. Some of them, I feel, are not necessary, but they are directives from the secretary of state, which we must follow,” Kale-Pesta told the commissioners.

The board of elections has 12 permanent staff members, all full time, and now has eight temporary employees who started work Monday. More temporary employees may be needed closer to the election, she said.

By the time voter registration ends at 9 p.m. Oct. 6, Kale-Pesta said she expects the county will have about 190,000 to 195,000 registered voters, with 72 percent to 75 percent of them expected to vote. There are now about 178,000 registered voters.

Voters have received cards showing their polling places, which also include postage-paid applications for an absentee ballot. About 20,000 applications for absentee ballots have been received to date, she said. The deadline to cast an absentee ballot is Nov. 3. Kale-Pesta said she expects up to 50,000 absentee ballots to be cast.

Kale-Pesta said she is urging voters to cast absentee ballots to reduce the length of lines at polling places on Election Day, which is Nov. 4.

Absentee voting and early walk-in voting at the board of elections begins Sept. 29, Kale-Pesta said.

Beginning Oct. 7, the board of elections at the county’s South Side Annex building at 2801 Market St. will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday; from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays; and from 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. This is the first time the board of elections has ever been open on Sundays, Kale-Pesta said.

Absentee and provisional ballots may be cast during those hours. Provisional ballots are for those who have moved recently.

“We’re going to make it possible for anybody who wants to vote — college kids who come in from school, anyone who’s elderly and only gets rides on the weekends,” she told the commissioners.

Mahoning County has 287 precincts and will use 94 polling places on Election Day, she said.

“Don’t let this election pass. Don’t get complacent ... Please just vote,” Kale-Pesta urged the public.

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