Requests for absentee ballots in Hamilton County quadruples

CINCINNATI - The Hamilton County Board of Elections has received 42,000 requests for absentee ballots, which is 400 percent more than in 2008 at this time.

"We have hit a record. We have never had this many requests this soon," said Amy Searcy, director of the Board of Elections.

During this same time period in 2008, the elections board had only 10,000 requests for absentee ballots. The numbers seem to reflect a growing trend for voters wanting to vote early.

"I also believe [this is] because the secretary of state this year has mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in Ohio," said Searcy.

Secretary of State Jon Husted's office says that more than 484,000 absentee ballot applications have been received by Ohio counties thus far.

"It's an incredible and frankly,a very exciting number," said Tim Burke, chair of the Hamilton County Democratic Party.

Burke and his Republican counterpart Alex Triantafilou both agree that there is extremely high interest in this year's presidential election.

"I think that the campaigns are driving people to vote early. I think there is a real push by the campaigns to make sure they lock in their voters," said Triantafilou.

The numbers also come at a time when Republicans and Democrats wage an ongoing battle in the courts over in-person early voting, especially for the last three days before the election.

"Right now it looks like we may get that and that's great but we're telling our people don't count on that because we don't know ultimately what the courts are going to do," said Burke.

"The Democrats have politically tried to talk about voter suppression, that's nonsense. It's a completely ridiculous argument and you can see it because people have this option to begin voting in 14 days and then for 35 days thereafter. Its never been easier to vote," said Triantafilou.

In an effort to better process the flood of applications the Hamilton County Board of Elections purchased a $200,000 machine that will open and sort the applications at a rate of 18,000 per hour.

"This greatly speeds up our ability to process the return ballots get them into their stored secured location, a locked room, and then allow our bi-partisan team to do that processing in much more speedy manner," said Searcy.

At the current rate of absentee ballot requests, no one is sure what the final tally will be but all estimate that the number could crest 150,000.

With so many people voting early it is believed that the lines will be shorter at the polls and things will run more smoothly Nov. 6.

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