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Austin Rivers, a senior from South Carolina, drops his vote in the ballot box on Tuesday. (LIZ MOUGHON | PHOTO EDITOR)

Students don't make up a large portion of early votes in Athens

Jake McClelland headed to the Athens County Board of Elections at 9 a.m. on Oct. 12 to darken the bubble next to his choice for president, but few students have yet to follow suit.

“It took me less than 10 minutes,” McClelland said. “I just did it at 9 o’clock the first day (early voting was available) and got it out of the way.”

McClelland, who is an intern for Sarah Grace’s campaign for the 94th State House of Representative seat, is one of few Ohioans who voted early in the 2016 presidential election, as votes cast prior to Nov. 8 account for about 30 percent of all votes in a typical election year, according to AP Election Research Group.

“Even if it’s a college town and there are fairly politically minded people, it’s still going to be lax when you go to the BOE,” McClelland, a junior studying political science and history, said.

In Athens County, 2,900 people have voted as of Oct. 21. That number includes those who have voted by mail, in nursing homes the Board of Elections has visited, while serving in the military and by handing their ballot into the Board of Elections office after filling it out at home.

“A lot of people are voting absentee by mail,” Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said. “In the next two weeks it will pick up, and we’ll have a lot of in-person voters. We look forward to (in-person voting) picking up.”

Quivey said this year’s numbers are average for a typical election cycle, and most voters the Board of Elections has encountered so far have been “residential, older people,” with fewer students who she said usually come out to vote the week before Election Day.

“(Student voters) just don’t know about it,” Hannah Borowski, a junior studying global studies war and peace, said. Borowski, who is a fellow for the Ohio Together campaign, said Democrats have made historic efforts to encourage early voting this election year.

“(Members of Ohio Together) spend a lot of our time trying to promote early voting,” Borowski said. “But either people don’t know about it or they like to vote on election day, which I respect … but, at the same time, you never know what will really happen.”

Democrats tend to encourage early voting amongst underprivileged minorities and the working class, Borowski said.

“Now that voting is encouraged and celebrated by the underprivileged minority … I think that really turns the outcome of the vote, typically on the side of the Democrats,” she said.

David Parkhill, president of Ohio University College Republicans, said his group doesn't have any specific plans to promote early voting.

"I'm going to vote on Election Day 'cause it's my first time,” Parkhill said. “Good for them if they want to save the time and vote early, but we're not really doing anything for early voting."

Borowski, who “never expected (early voting) to be that easy” when she voted this year, added that “lines suck,” especially for student voters who are busy with college.

This year, analysts predict that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s current advantage in early polls over Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in key GOP states such as North Carolina and Florida is indicative of Trump's potential loss. Both states were decided by fewer than 100,000 votes in 2012.

Regardless of which candidate county residents intend to bubble or write in for the 2016 presidential election, the Board of Elections, which will extend its hours of operation and will be open on the weekends to accommodate voters this year, encourages everyone to take advantage of their right to vote.

“I don’t care if you’re Democrat. I don’t care if you’re Republican,” Quivey said. “I don’t care if you come in person. I don’t care if you do it by mail or if you do it on Election Day. I just encourage people to vote.”

-Luke Torrance contributed to this report.


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