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It’s time to reduce precincts

Published: Sun, February 17, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

It’s time to reduce precincts

We don’t often encourage the rivalry that exists between Mahoning and Trumbull counties, but we’re willing to make an exception when it comes to reducing voting precincts.

We dare Mahoning County to outdo Trumbull County by not only reducing its number of voting precincts, but by doing it faster and better.

Last week we applauded the Trumbull County Board of Elections in reaching a comprise that will allow a reduction in precincts from 210 to 152. The reduction is impressive, but the compromise required waiting until after the 2014 election, which means Trumbull County won’t start saving money until the 2015 elections.

By the numbers

The need for precinct reduction in Mahoning County is even more acute than in Trumbull County because Mahoning has one of the highest precinct-per-voter ratios in the state. With 273 precincts, Mahoning County has a precinct for every 623 voters. Even with 210 precincts, Trumbull County has one for every 721 voters. With the 2015 reduction, it will have one for every 995 voters. The state average is now 827 voters per precinct, but that number will go up as other counties reduce their number of precincts.

Fewer precincts are needed because early voting and absentee voting mean fewer voters at the polls on Election Day. Reducing precincts makes sense because every precinct costs the county between $1,000 and $1,200 per election. If Mahoning County reduced its precincts from 273 to 200, that would mean a savings of at least $75,000 a year or $750,000 over 10 years.

The board of elections should be aiming to cut the precincts to no more than 200, which would give the county a precinct voter population of 850, only slightly more than the state average and below that of almost every other urban county in the state. Montgomery County (Dayton) gets by with 1,066 voters per precinct, and Summit County (Akron) has 1,235.

This is a case where Mahoning County should be aiming low — that is for the lowest number of precincts with which the county can provide an efficient election. Fewer precincts equals more savings.

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