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Elections' Presiding Judges in Short Supply

Franklin County has 773,000 registered voters but only 116,000 will be eligible to participate in today's elections. Voters in several of the county's suburban communities will nominate mayors and decide various tax levies. Just last month the Board of Elections was having trouble finding enough presiding judges to work at the polls.

153 of Franklin County's 850 precincts are open for business Tuesday. Less than a month ago the board of elections was looking for democrats to serve as presiding judges at the polls. The shortage is due to what elections director Matt Damschroder calls "a dramatic shift" in voter preference. Damschroder says the party whose gubernatorial candidate receives the most votes gets to pick the presiding judge for the next four years.

"Before '06 we had about 60% of the presiding judges were Republican," Damschroder says. "Now out of the almost 850 precincts in Franklin County only 22 are Republican. So it's been a scramble for us to find Democrats who are interested in being presiding judges and poll workers. We're covered for this election, but it is going to be difficult for us to recruit all the number of Democrats needed to be presiding judges this fall."

Licking County has also been trying to find poll workers. Asked on Monday whether the Licking Board of Elections had found enough workers, an operator who answered replied, "Call back at 4:30." By 5 p.m., Director Jay Morrow had good news.

"Yeah, we were looking for poll workers and we even had a poll worker training class today," Morrow says. "But fortunately we found enough to get us through the day."

Franklin County's Damschroder predicts about a 10% voter turnout. Licking County's Morrow says he expects balloting to be around 25% or less.

The polls close at 7:30 p.m.