Stark Cty. Voters Known to Predict Elections

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CANTON, Ohio -- One day after the first presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, some previously "on the fence" voters in Stark County said what they saw convinced them to vote early.

What happens in Stark County is normally a good indication of what will happen nationally.

"Stark County traditionally has been defined as the bellwether county of the state and of the nation because our residents, our voters, are very typical of representative of our state and nation, and so a lot of focus is on Stark County as a result of that," said Jeanette Mullane, Deputy Director at the Stark County Board of Elections.

But the debate did not generate an overwhelming turnout for early voting on Thursday.

The Board of Elections was expecting between 200 and 300 people to cast early ballots on Thursday.

That is far less than the 505 who voted on Tuesday and 321 who voted on Wednesday before the first presidential debate.

Among those voting Thursday was Ann Sweet of Canton who watched the debate and said she was previously undecided.

"I was kind of in doubt about some things, the issues with Romney, but I just kind of got a clearer picture of what he was all about," said Sweet, who admitted voting accordingly.

Gary Martin of Canton also said he went into the debate with an open mind but saw enough Wednesday night to convince him to vote early.

"Nothing new came out.  I think that basically there are two opposing views as to how to deal with the economy, how to push the nation forward, and I just made my decision final," said Martin.

Of the 255,000 registered voters in Stark County, nearly half have no party affiliation, according to Mullane.

As of Thursday, 31,000 had requested absentee ballots by mail.  Another 944 had already voted in person.

Of those voting in person, 551 were registered democrats and 172 of them were registered republicans.

"If you look at the numbers of the voters by political party you can usually, you can see that they are die-hard voters. It's the non-partisan voters that the candidates and the parties are unsure of which way they are going to vote and they will tend to cater to those voters to try and get their vote," said Mullane.

Mullane was urging voters who are mailing in their ballots to make certain they sign their documents and fill them out properly in order for them to be counted.

Connie Ray of Massillon was giving a church member a ride to the Board of Elections on Thursday but said she was not going to cast her own vote just yet.

"I like to vote on Election Day, that's just what I like to do," said Ray, who also watched Wednesday night's debate and said she is going into the election with a preference but was still willing to keep an open mind.

"I really wouldn't say I am undecided, because I really think I'm going to vote for this person, now can I be swayed? Yes!" said Ray.

With two more debates left before the November election it appears many of the non-partisan voters in Stark County are waiting to vote.

That gives both candidates time to score more points with undecided voters here.