By DAVID SKOLNICK
Like the rain outside, the number of early voters inside boards of elections offices in the Mahoning Valley was light.
Tuesday, 35 days before the Nov. 2 general election, was the first day voters could cast their ballots.
But as word gets out, elections-board officials expect more people to take advantage of early voting.
“I look for it to be higher as voters learn they can come in, primarily from the media getting the word out,” said Kim Meeks, deputy director of Columbiana County Board of Elections.
“I don’t think it will be wait-in-line time at the board, but it will be steady and busy,” added Kelly Pallante, director of Trumbull County Board of Elections.
Mike Carney of Campbell was among those who showed up Tuesday at the Mahoning County Board of Elections office to vote early.
“It’s a hell of a lot easier to vote this way,” said Carney, who is retired and walks with the assistance of a cane. “I don’t know if I can make it to my [polling location] because of my health. I’ve voted early before. I like this law.”
Though the candidates have a lot more campaigning to do, Carney said, “I listen very attentively to all of the stuff going on, and nothing is going to change my vote” between Tuesday and Nov. 2.
Most of those at the Mahoning County Board of Elections voting early Tuesday are retired.
“I’m a senior citizen, and I came to get my vote out early and not wait in line” on Election Day, said Patricia Daye of Youngstown. “It’s easier to come here than to stand in line. My mind is made up.”
Wanda Mack of Youngstown, also a retiree, said she voted early to “beat the crowd. This is a very good thing. The old way, you have to stand in line and wait. This way, I come in, vote and walk right out.”
Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning deputy elections director, said: “People don’t want to stand in long lines. We avoided the long lines in the 2008 election because of early voting.”
Early voting has been permitted in Ohio since 2006. But it didn’t become popular until the 2008 presidential election.
Before early voting became law, those who wanted to cast ballots before Election Day needed a reason to do so. Those reasons included being out of the county on Election Day or too ill to make it to a polling location.
Democrats held two early-voting events outside the Mahoning County Board of Elections on Tuesday.
Attorney General Richard Cordray was the main speaker as the board opened its office at 8:30 a.m. The county Democratic Party had a tailgate party in the afternoon encouraging people to vote early.
“We speak now in terms of election season and not just Election Day,” Mahoning Democratic Chairman David Betras said.
The Mahoning board is expecting 20,000 to 25,000 people to vote early, either at the board or by mail, Kale-Pesta said.
Trumbull election officials are expecting about 15,000 early voters, Pallante said.
In Columbiana, the estimate is 6,000 to 7,000 early voters, Meeks said.
The boards of elections addresses are:
Mahoning County, 2801 Market St., Youngstown, OH 44507.
Trumbull County, 2947 Youngstown Road SE, Warren, OH 44484.
Columbiana County, 41 N. Park Ave., Lisbon, OH 44432.