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2020 is looking to be a pivotal year in politics. But this year's elections are about much more than the race for the White House. And the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a complicating factor. WKSU, our colleagues at public radio stations across Ohio and the region and at NPR will bring you coverage of all the races from the national to the local level.

A Bellwether in 2016, Portage County Sees Steady Stream of Early Voters This Year

Portage County's 2016 election results closely mirrored the results nationwide in the race for president.
Kabir Bhatia
Portage County's 2016 election results closely mirrored the results statewide in the race for president.

In Portage County, there’s been a steady stream of early voters for the past month.

Results from the 2016 presidential contest in the county closely mirrored the statewide outcome. Donald Trump won Ohio by 8%; he captured Portage County with a 9.9% advantage.

With people lined up sometimes for hundreds of feet in Ravenna, the board has had occasional reports during early voting of electioneering that gets too close – or too intense – for voters.

But when Tracy Fuldaer from Kent was there, she says everyone was being respectful. Still, she decided to early vote just to avoid any conflict on Election Day itself.

“Some people tend to get aggressive and they come up to you and say, ‘vote for my candidate.’ And they’re passing out literature and whatnot and sometimes it just feels a little like, ‘can I just get inside?’"

Fuldaer says one of the factors that helped her decide how to vote was the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mark Presley from Ravenna decided to vote early because it’s convenient – and because he does not trust mail-in ballots. He also says he was concerned that coronavirus might cause another shutdown of the state before Election Day.

“I think they’re doing the best they can with the directives that have been put out. We’re all gathering out here under a tent when we could just be inside – it’s the same thing. I don’t agree with any of this other stuff, either: six [feet] social distancing, masks or anything else.”

All of the state’s early voting centers – which in all but 3 counties are at the county’s Board of Elections – are open for early voting today from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.