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Government and Politics

One vote separates winner from loser in Massillon
It's among a handful of issues where close votes make the provisional ballot counts crucial come Saturday
This story is part of a special series.

Tim Rudell
Massillon is nationally known for its high school football tradition. That tradition, and a "excellent" academic rating from the State may have helped in the campaign for the school levy
Courtesy of Massillon City Schools
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In The Region:

When the vote counts were done a week ago, Northeast Ohio had a dozen or so winners and losers separated by just a handful of votes.  For all of them, the results will rest with “provisionals” – those ballots set aside on Election Day, usually because of voter registration or identification issues.

County elections officials are vetting them now and will start counting the legit ones on Saturday.  And WKSU’s Tim Rudell reports that no one will be watching the count more closely than Massillon.

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The Massillon City Schools emergency levy is passing -- right now, anyway.  Superintendent Richard Goodright knows the numbers by heart.

“It was 5,781 for,and 5,780 against.” 
So with a turnout of nearly 12,000 votes -- a turnout of 66 percent of registered voters --  just one separates the winner and the loser.

Goodright isn’t sure exactly how many of the provisional ballots that included his 8.1-mill levy will be counted.  But he is optimistic that, like the regular vote count, they will give the levy an edge, no matter how slim.  He believes the generations-old tradition of Massillon Tigers football and of  a quality  school system — it’s rated “excellent” by the state — brought out a great many people to push for the  levy, contribute to the campaign, and help get out the vote.

 “We get an accumulation of people who come to our football games, somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000 people on Friday nights.  So we get that captive electorate there.  But, as we sometimes hand out levy information, we find that one of two say, ‘You know what, I don’t live here any longer.’
"But they’ve got all their Massillon Tiger gear on, and they may live in Jackson, or Perry, or Canton, but they come back here.  So we have a big support group.”

And, living in the community or not, that support network helps push the school levy's message. "What we have here is a dynamic that other communities don’t have.”

Votes that count, maybe
One such “extended community” member, and a provisional voter, is Troy Fry.  He moved back into Massillon from Jackson Township a few weeks ago -- which is why his ballot was provisional at his new polling place. “This started for me a long time ago.  Although I went to Jackson schools I’ve always been a Massillon fan.  My parents both went to Massillon.  It’s one of those things you know.  It’s a unique community."

Fry once ran for the Massillon school board. And unlike most voters on Tuesday, the presidential race was not the biggest draw for him. It was the levy.

And when he looked at his ballot, “believe it or not, it wasn’t on there. I was floored. I raised my hand and said, ‘You handed me a provisional ballot without Issue 50 on it, and that was the main reason I came here to vote.’  And they didn’t know what to do.
"They were looking around and looking around.  And next thing you know they come around and they have a completely new, sealed, maybe two-inch think stack of ballots that did have Issue 50 in it, but the other stuff as well. So, I was confused. And they couldn’t answer my question--all they could say was that it would be counted—is that I voted for issue 10 and some of the other things twice.  So, it’s just kind of mind bogeling that it went down that way.”   

The Massillon precinct Fry moved to is beside one in Jackson Township, and both are served by the same polling place. He suspects the original ballot he got may have been for that adjacent precinct.

“It’s just like an eighth of a mile from my house," he says. "But I’m at the place here where I’ve got Massillon, Jackson, and Perry all right in my neighborhood.  So, I don’t know if that threw the legs off; but at 2:00 o’clock on voting day, they didn’t know what was going on. They were dumbfounded. They were arguing amongst themselves, and I said, 'I just want to vote for Issue 50. And they eventually found it, found the right stack.”

According to the Stark County Board of Elections, elections officials will determine if and where a voter is qualified to vote, and count the ballot appropriate for that location.

Other close calls
Two dozen other issues across northeast Ohio are hanging – or losing – by less than one percent…sixteen of them by less than 50 votes.

If the margins are within a half-of-one percent of all the votes cast, they qualify for an automatic recount.

But none of that will happen until after the provisionals are tallied, which state law says must be done by Nov. 27th

Related WKSU Stories

Ohio schools aim to pass new, different kinds of levies
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Akron, Cleveland schools pass levies
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Statewide education coalition is formed
Monday, November 12, 2012

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