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Issue 1 voting in Cuyahoga and Summit counties running smoothly

An American flag waves in the breeze next to a sign directing Ohioans to vote inside Tharp Sixth Grade School, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 in Hilliard, Ohio.
Samantha Hendrickson
An American flag waves in the breeze next to a sign directing Ohioans to vote inside Tharp Sixth Grade School, Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023 in Hilliard, Ohio. It’s the final day that Ohio citizens can vote in a GOP-rushed special election on whether to make the state constitution harder to amend, likely having direct impact on abortion rights in the state.

Voting in Cuyahoga and Summit counties is running smoothly Tuesday morning as voters turned out to weigh in on Issue 1.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose had said he did not expect high turnout for this election. August elections typically have very low turnout, which led state lawmakers to abolish them last year. However, GOP lawmakers brought back the August special election to put Issue 1 on the ballot.

The issue proposes changing the requirements to amend the state's constitution from a simple majority to 60%. It would also make it harder to get proposed amendments on the ballot by expanding signature gathering requirements from 44 counties to all 88 counties. The issue would also eliminate the 10-day cure period that allows campaigns to replace or correct petition signatures.

Despite initial low expectations, early voter turnout was high, with lines wrapping around boards of elections in urban counties. According to the Secretary of State's office, more than 578,490 early votes were cast by Aug. 4., five times higher than voter turnout in August 2022 and more than double voter turnout in last May's primary.

Push your ballot into new scanners

The Summit County Board of Elections is confirming some issues with scanners at polling locations.

"We've had some very sporadic issues with machines out of function," Deputy Director Pete Zeigler said, "but those we have been maintenance and replacing."

Reports have circulated that scanners in Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson were either down or not working properly.

In many cases, the issue may be user error, Zeigler said.

"Inserting the ballot can be a little different than what it was with the old equipment," Zeigler said.

The scanners are new for this election and require voters to push in their ballots. Voters may be used to older machines that sucked in ballots, he said.

"It's new equipment for the poll workers. It's new equipment for the voters," Zeigler said. "It'll take practice for lack of a better term for everyone involved."

Zeigler said he’s heard a few reports of scanners being jammed, but if that happens, voters can cast their ballot using another machine or with an auxiliary bag.

“If they are placed in an auxiliary bag, a bipartisan team of poll workers later run them through machines at the location, and they’re counted," Zeigler said.

Zeigler assured voters that if their ballot went into the scanner, it's been counted. If a ballot is spit out, it hasn't been counted. Then, voters will be directed to either use another machine or an auxiliary bag. No technical issue should cause a voter to delay voting, Zeigler said.

"Every ballot that is cast at the voting location will be counted before it leaves that voting location," Zeigler said.

Polls workers may not have been given enough training on the new scanners, Zeigler said.

"I think we'll have to be more aggressive with training of POs (poll workers) and our voters," Zeigler said.

Overall, voting in Summit County has been running smoothly, Zeigler said.

Voters sound off in Akron and Cleveland

Alex Petras holds his voting sticker up.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Alex Petras of North Hill stands outside his polling location on Aug. 8, 2023.

Although there were no lines of voters outside of polling places in Summit County Tuesday morning, there was a steady trickle of voters who were up bright and early to cast their ballots. Alex Petras from North Hill in Akron said he voted no on Issue 1.

"I think it's pretty clearly a way to make it harder for the people of Ohio to vote and have their voices heard," Petras said.

He doesn't think the issue will pass.

"I think if people get out, the majority of people don't want it to pass," Petras said.

There appeared to be plenty of poll workers at polling places in Akron and Munroe Falls, voters said.

Kendrick Brunson from North Hill in Akron also said he voted no on Issue 1.

"I believe of course all votes should count, not a certain percentage to make up like a majority vote," Brunson said. "Just count everyone's votes and do everything as fair as possible."

Lori Waters stands outside her polling location in North Hill wearing a "I voted" sticker.
Abigail Bottar
Ideastream Public Media
Lori Waters stands outside her polling location in North Hill on Aug. 8, 2023, wearing a "I voted" sticker.

Lori Waters of Akron said she thinks it's unconstitutional to change the requirements to amend the state's constitution, which is why she voted no.

Michael Rybka of Munroe Falls said he voted yes on Issue 1 due to concern over a proposed amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the Ohio constitution that will be on the ballot in November.

"This amendment is being written in such a way to really kind of scare people, and it's really dishonest," Rybka said. "And then it gets people to vote on a constitutional amendment that's really dishonest, and then it pushes forward an agenda that people really didn't vote for."

Gary Thomas of Munroe Falls said he voted no on Issue 1.

"I was moved by the fact that the GOP tried to put a ballot issue on an off-election period," Thomas said.

He hopes other voters follow suit.

"I'm just very upset that the fact that we have to pay to have this election on a day. We should have had this on a regular period election and put the ballot measure up in an honest effort," Thomas said. "This is shady. It's scummy, and it cost the Ohio taxpayers money."

Munroe Falls City Councilmember Chris Ritzinger said he voted no on the issue, but it wasn't an easy decision for him.

"As much as I understand and agree with the fact that we should have a larger percentage for constitutional amendments, I have to question why? Why's the number 60%? Nothing has failed or passed in Ohio by more than 58%," Ritzinger said. "Why's the number 60 get there? Who's pushing what issues? Eighty-eight of the counties? Why's it not 60% of those counties?"

Tim Aikens of Munroe Falls said he voted no on Issue 1 to keep Ohioans' voices heard.

"Nobody's showed me where a majority rule's not the best way," Aikens said, "and until they can, I don't think it's right that 41% of a vote can change a vote that drastically."

Tremont resident Isa Torres holds up her "I voted" sticker while standing in a parking lot.
Taylor Wizner
Ideastream Public Media
“I voted no, mostly because I believe in abortion rights,” said Tremont resident Isa Torres.

People outside polling locations on Cleveland's West Side said voting went smoothly in the morning hours before work. Poll workers said it had been slow, but steady.

Many voters at the Tremont Montessori School polling station said they opposed Issue 1. One voter, John Allen of Tremont, said the issue for him was less about abortion rights and more about the way the language of the amendment was written.

"I've been seeing a lot of things like casting this as an abortion issue," he said. "But truly, I think just Issue 1 is a terribly written issue."

To that point, he criticized the requirement that canvassers for an amendment must be present in all 88 counties, instead of in half of them, as is required under current law.

"I think the idea of requiring 100% of the counties is really designed to prevent Ohio voters from putting anything on the ballot in the future," he said. "I don't like the idea that politicians know better for me than I do."

He also expressed skepticism for the timing of this vote, noting that Republican legislators had previously rejected the notion of an August special election.

"They, in fact, said the only reason for August votes was for special interests to try to get things through without a fair vote, and then, lo and behold, the same people put that vote in," Allen said.

Hannah Farley showed up to her polling site in Tremont because she wants the amendment enshrining abortion rights in the constitution to pass in November.

“I voted no because I believe women have autonomy and power,” she said. “They should make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own lives.”

Tremont resident Ross Miller said he voted no because he didn’t want the state constitution to change.

“I know that the way the constitution has been set up, it’s been that way for the last 100 years, so I don’t think there’s a need to change it," Miller said. "I like the way that it’s set up at 50%. It gives the people the right to vote when the legislature won’t do certain things.”

Ideastream Public Media health reporter Stephen Langel interviews John Allen, who is with his two dogs.
Taylor Wizner
Ideastream Public Media
Ideastream Public Media health reporter Stephen Langel interviews John Allen, who cast his vote in opposition to Issue 1 at his polling site in Cleveland's Tremont neighborhood.

Luis Valle voted for Issue 1 at his polling location in Clark-Fulton.

He thinks there should be a higher threshold for constitutional amendments, like other states have, although no state has a threshold like the one proposed in Ohio.

“I believe that you need to have more of an input than one over (50%), so that’s basically it,” Valle said.

Some polling locations temporarily changed for this election due to sites being unavailable, but voters in Cuyahoga County and Summit County said they didn't have any issues finding their polling place.

Polls are open until 7:30 pm. Voters who are in line at that time can still cast their vote.

Updated: August 8, 2023 at 1:30 PM EDT
This story has been updated with information about ballot scanners in Summit County.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.
Taylor Wizner is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media.
Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.