A good year for levies
The Belmont, Harrison and Monroe county boards of elections are taking stock of the results of the Nov. 5 contests and said levies on the ballot last week did well.
This was an off-year election with no presidential candidates to consider, but a number of mayoral races and property tax levies were on local ballots. Belmont County Board of Elections members conducted their first election from a new location at a building on U.S. 40 that formerly belonged to The Health Plan. During the past several months, the board has been in the process of arranging state-mandated security upgrades and instituting new equipment such as electronic poll books.
According to the unofficial results from Tuesday’s tally, 10,864 of 44,530 of Belmont County’s registered voters cast their ballots. That amounts to 24.40 percent of all people who were eligible to vote.
That rate was “about normal for an off-year,” board member Michael Shaheen said on Election Day.
While many precincts’ voter participation ranked at 24 percent or less, some had a higher turnout St. Clairsville, for example, had 39.36 percent of voters participating in the process. As many as 28 percent of Martins Ferry voters cast ballots. Both of those communities elected new mayors on Tuesday.
“I think the people of St. Clairsville and Martins Ferry take their elected officials pretty serious. I don’t think it’s newfound that there was an interest. Obviously, the water issue drove the voting in St. Clairsville,” Shaheen said, referring to the question of whther to privatize the water and wastewater systems in the city.
While the board of elections’ website was updated regularly with results on Tuesday after the polls closed, the on-screen readouts at the lobby headquarters itself seemed to lag.
“The machines worked perfectly fine. The only thing was, there was a lapse between when we were downloading on the website and then it would catch up here,” Shaheen said.
Members of the public awaiting results at the board headquarters also observed that the updating numbers did not include how many precincts out of the total number were represented. Shaheen said this will be rectified by the next election.
Many levies were approved last week — some by significant percentages but others by a handful of votes.
Martins Ferry voters on Tuesday approved a new 3-mill five-year tax levy that will support operations of the Martins Ferry Emergency Medical Service. The vote was 559-451.
The Shadyside Local School District’s current expenses renewal levy also passed 736-443. It is a 4-mill five-year renewal levy. Shadyside Superintendent John Haswell thanked the community for its support.
“Our community always supports our school district and it’s greatly appreciated,” he said. “I take nothing for granted. We can’t take it for granted. We got information out to the community, we didn’t just sneak it by them. When they ran to the ballot box and saw there was a renewal levy there, they knew it was coming.”
Haswell said the off-year did not impact the decision to place the levy on the ballot.
“I don’t think the timing really matters to our community. They just support us, it’s as simple as that,” he said.
In Harrison County, 3,052 of 9,800 registered voters, or 31.14 percent, voted.
“I think overall it was a little low,” Ruby Foutz, director of the Harrison County Board of Elections, said. “Some of the bigger precincts were about average. Some were really low. … All in all I think it was a good turnout. Everything went pretty good. I think everyone’s satisfied except the losers.”
Foutz said the Cadiz Southwest and Northeast precincts had among the highest turnouts, but the percentage of turnout was about 28.90 percent compared to other districts that surpassed 30 percent.
“They’re the bigger precincts anyway, so of course theirs would be higher than the other precincts,” she said.
“On the levies, some of them like the Short Creek levy that passed was 206, which was pretty good compared to 85 against,” she said. “It just varies. You never know what to expect.”
There were numerous levies on Harrison County’s ballot as well, and most passed by a significant number of voters.
On Election Day, Foutz said, there were many new poll workers on the job and, although they were trained, they were still familiarizing themselves with the procedures. That delayed workers from placing results online until the count was nearly complete.
“When the precincts bring back their equipment, we have to go through and check the numbers on each one, and they were a little late,” she said. “We only put them on once they all get in and give us the information.”
In Monroe County, 3,342 ballots were cast out of 9,295 registered voters, or 35.95 percent.
“It’s just the type of election that it is,” Monroe County Board of Elections Director Mollie Landefeld said. “None of the precincts had a strong feeling here in our county. It really wasn’t any different across any of them.”
Monroe County’s proposed levies had a mix of wins and losses, and the levies that passed did so by high percentages.
“I think the bulk of them passed because they were renewals, so there was no true, new levies except I think in one precinct,” she said.