Akron primary day voters mostly unbothered by 2023 voting law changes
The new voting laws in Ohio seemed to have little to no affect on Akron voters in Tuesday’s primary.
Not only did the dates and deadline for early and absentee voting change this year, the state also changed the ID requirements for voters. In Summit County, the board of elections redrew precinct maps based on the 2020 Census, reducing the number of precincts by 50 to 371, which meant polling location changes for some.
Janet Moore was among those in Akron whose polling location changed. She said it didn’t bother her much, but she does have concerns with the change in acceptable forms of ID for voting.
“Some people don’t have ways having transportation to get the ID,” Moore said.
It was a slow morning at the Mason Park Community Center in Akron, but polling location manager Vanessa Winborn said that’s typical for a primary at that polling place. Winborn had to redirect a few people to other polling locations who weren't aware of the changes.
“We only had the one person upset to the point of not wanting to go ahead and vote somewhere else, but I think he’s going to change his mind. I hope he did,” Winborn said. “Please don’t let this discourage you. You came this far. It’s just up the street.”
Winborn said there weren’t any ID issues at Mason Park.
Hsa Win is a community outreach coordinator for ASIA, Inc. - Asian Services in Action. He said some voters from immigrant communities were frustrated by the lack of information about changes.
“They had no idea that their polling place changed. This morning they went to their previous location, so I was like, ‘No, you have to go to another location you were assigned,” Win said.
Win is ethnically Karen. He was born in Thailand, but ethnically Karen people are more often native to Myanmar, such as Rose Bell, for whom Win provided translation assistance and helped navigate the voting process.
“She wanted to vote in the 2020 election, but she couldn’t because of the language barrier. She went to a polling place and came back,” Win said. “The election workers asked her a lot of questions, which made her nervous, and she couldn’t understand what she was saying.”
In addition to new maps, the reduced number of precincts meant some polling locations were responsible for more voters than in the past. One polling place – the Trinity United Church of Christ had flooding issues and alerted voters a few days ago that they would have to cast ballots at the St. Anthony School instead.
Steve Dietrick said he was alerted by mail about the change. The two locations are about a mile from each other.
“I live down the street. I took side streets here. It’s a piece of cake,” Dietrick said.
The Voting Location Deputy at the St. Anthony School, Dave DeChon, said he enjoyed brining in voters from Trinity and the voters whose polling place shifted to St. Anthony due to precinct redrawing.
“It’s obviously more than we’ve had in the past, and we’re just happy. It’s a lot more fun when the voters are coming in the door than it is to be sitting here waiting for people,” DeChon said.
DeChon said only a few people showed up to St. Anthony to vote when they should have gone to a different polling place.
“I think we got them all worked out in the end,” DeChon said.
He also said nobody showed up with the wrong forms of ID.
19-year-old Omari Amos also voted for the first time today. He says he feels like he's part of a historic moment voting for Akron’s next mayor, who could be the first racial minority in the office.
“The crazy part about the experience is that when I went to vote, after I had already turned my ticket in, I just felt different,” Amos said. “I really just voiced my own opinion or I made my presence known in a way.”
Without any Republican or independent candidates, the winner of tonight’s primary will run unopposed in November likely making them the next mayor of Akron.