Washington County saw more than 400 early ballots cast in the 2012 presidential election on Saturday and Sunday. And local voters have one last chance-until 2 p.m. today- to get in an early vote prior to Tuesday's general election.
The ability to vote in advance of Election Day this weekend was good for Tracy Orr of Marietta who voted at the county courthouse Sunday afternoon.
"This is my first time voting early, but it's very convenient for me-there are less lines to stand in," she said.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Peggy Byers, deputy director of the Washington County Board of Elections, seated at right, checks in a line of early voters at the elections office in the county courthouse Sunday afternoon.
The three days before the general election had been at the center of a legal battle between President Barack Obama's campaign and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted and Attorney General Mike Dewine, who are both Republicans.
But on Oct. 16 the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the Ohio officials' appeal of a federal court decision that reinstated in-person early voting on the days immediately preceding Tuesday's election.
In the wake of that decision, Husted ordered the state's 88 county boards of elections to open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday; and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today.
At a glance
- Today is the final day for early voting prior to Tuesday's general election.
- Voters may cast an early ballot from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today in the Washington County Board of Elections Office on the first floor of the county courthouse at the corner of Second and Putnam streets in Marietta.
- On Tuesday, the polls will open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. (Polling places, see Page B8.)
Source-Washington County Board of Elections
Elizabeth Wile of Belpre also voted at the courthouse with her daughter, Andrea Wile, on Sunday.
"(Andrea) works from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. every day, so it would be very difficult for her to find time to vote without being able to vote today," Elizabeth said. "And I have appointments throughout the week, so it's hard for me to get here, too."
Washington County Board of Elections Director Tara Hupp said this weekend was the first time early voting took place on the Sunday before the general election.
"In the past we've been open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Monday prior to the election, but this is the first time we've opened on Sunday," she said.
Before last month's court ruling, local boards of election had the option to provide early voting on Sunday, but this year all 88 boards had to be open that day.
"And our office will be open for final early voting from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today," Hupp said.
By Sunday evening Hupp reported a total 4,455 people had voted in the election board office since early in-person voting began on Oct. 2. Total absentee ballots received by the board of elections as of Sunday was 9,043.
Jim and Lori Meagle of Marietta also took advantage of the Sunday voting hours.
"We were out and about and planned to vote anyway-you never know if you might get sick and not be able to vote on Election Day," Jim said. "And this is a very important election, no matter which side you're on."
His wife agreed.
"I usually vote on Election Day, and have never voted on a Sunday-but it's very convenient for us," she said.
Early voting on the weekend before the general election just makes sense, according to Brian Rothenberg, executive director of ProgressOhio.
"I was in Cleveland Saturday and the line of people waiting to vote extended around the block," he said. "In 2008 there were 193,000 people who voted during the final weekend before Election Day in Ohio."
Rothenberg said many people are working two jobs or simply cannot take time off from work to vote early during the week, although he noted employers are supposed to provide workers with enough time to vote.
"Also, many families go to church together on Sundays, and what an opportunity this provides for them to participate in one of their most basic rights by stopping to vote on the way home," he said.
Rothenberg is hopeful there won't be a need for more legal fights to allow early voting during future elections.
"I hope they'll continue to provide voting over this weekend," he said. "It just makes common sense."
But Leslie Haas, chairwoman of the Washington County Republican Party executive committee, disagreed.
"This state has 750 hours of early voting already-which is plenty, but the Democrats insist that allowing 24 more hours just before Election Day will make a difference," she said. "This creates a gigantic amount of extra work for local election boards who also have to pay overtime for security at the county courthouse."
She said the local GOP doesn't believe election board workers should be overburdened with additional work prior to what's proving to be one of the nation's largest presidential elections.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.