Summit County -- After the county's Board of Elections sharply reduced the number of precincts countywide before last November's general election, the numbers are expected to increase this year.
The Board Jan. 14 approved an increase from the current number of 298 precincts. Board Executive Director Joseph Masich said his "best guess" is that the new number will be between 368 and 400 precincts, lower than the 475 precincts prior to last year's reduction.
"I'm planning on having [the changes] in place for the September primary," he said. "Whether it will be done in time for the May primary, I don't know."
According to November election results, there were 368,055 registered voters in the 298 precincts, for an average of 1,235 voters in each. Masich said in early October that prior to the reduction, there were an average of about 900 voters in each precinct. Masich, however, said that in November, the numbers actually varied widely, particularly with extensive voter registration drives in some areas during the presidential election. For example, Peninsula, which is one precinct, had only about 455 registered voters, while certain precincts around the University of Akron had as many as 1,700 voters. He noted that state law allows a maximum of just 1,400 voters per precinct.
"That's a reason we're addressing this," he said.
Masich said various factors will impact the process, as well as cause some divergence in the number of voters within precincts. For example, the Board will have to look at new ward maps that Akron, Barberton and Cuyahoga Falls all recently drew up to see how precincts will fit within them. Also, said Masich, some communities, including Northfield Village, Silver Lake and Fairlawn, have wards that correspond to their precinct boundaries and these will not be changed, even though the number of registered voters likely falls outside the average the Board is seeking.
The Board voted to reduce the number of precincts for the November election last March as a cost-saving measure. Masich said that his "ballpark" estimate is that the move saved between $100,000 and $120,000 in November in poll worker training and compensation, as well as equipment costs.