Government

Mahoning Democrats Pull Ahead in Early Voting

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The percentage of registered Democrats in Mahoning County who have already voted — by mail or in-person at the county elections board — nears 40% this morning, well ahead of registered Republicans and undeclared voters (independents).

The numbers, obtained in real-time Sunday from the elections board’s information technology supervisor, suggest Democrats and the Clinton campaign are executing a superior get-out-the-vote ground game. In fact, the Democratic National Committee’s operation was in full view this weekend outside the elections board while Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee were out of sight. On Saturday and Sunday, an employee of the DNC phoned in updates as he offered coffee, water and granola bars to voters as they arrived. If a vehicle had a handicap parking permit, he directed the drivers to where elections officials would provide curb-side service.

As of 3:30 p.m. Sunday, 15,769 registered Democrats had voted, 9,673 registered Republicans and 11,961 independents. Using these numbers as the basis for a set of assumptions – Democrats vote for Hillary Clinton, Republicans for Trump and independents split – Clinton has received 58% of the early vote.

The extrapolation, of course, is flawed. Not everyone votes for their party’s presidential candidate, independents don’t split evenly, and Democrats typically do better than Republicans in getting out early votes. Were this a traditional presidential year – and the GOP candidate not drawing a significant share of working-class voters — independents in Mahoning County could be expected to break in favor of the Democrat. And although the early vote totals appear to be good news for Clinton, in a typical year she would need to get at least 60% of the vote here to carry Ohio.

“I’m feeling good about the turnout. Democratic numbers are up and this is where you see the huge investment in the ground game start to pay off,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, as he observed the line of 350 Mahoning County voters waiting Sunday for more than two hours to cast their votes.

Ryan said he was in Columbus on Saturday where he observed long lines of voters outside the Franklin County elections board. The same was true Saturday and Sunday at the Trumbull County Elections board, he said.

“I think Hillary is going to squeak it out [in Ohio],” he predicted. “Her ground game is going to help her and I think you’re going to see numbers with Republican and Independent women who are going to win her this election.”

While Hispanic voting is said to be up substantially in Florida and Nevada, cable news commentators report African-American early voting nationwide is falling short of 2008 and 2012, when America elected and re-elected a black president. The same is said to be true of Millennials.

“No, no, no. I don’t see that at all,” observed Nora Lynn Palermo, the Democratic county recorder up for re-election, as she greeted early voters Saturday. “I think it’s equally mixed and a lot of younger people are voting as well.”

Elizabeth Robinson, a 26-year-old black woman, said she sees “good turnout” in her Youngstown community. “When it comes to expectations, we always exceed them. Sometimes people wait to the last minute.”

Cecil Tucker was the first in line Oct. 12 when early voting began in Mahoning County and cast the first in-person vote. A Youngstown resident who retired from the military and Boeing, Tucker, an African-American, sat on a bench outside the elections board Saturday “just relaxing and enjoying the day of freedom,” he said. “It’s a good mixture of people and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

On Sunday, Kenneth Moore, a retired city worker, joined his church’s Souls to the Polls and took a ride to the elections board in a van. “I look around here and I see a goodly number of African Americans,” he said. “People do care. Perhaps they’re fueled by anger, fear or hope. I see a lot of people who want to exercise their right to vote.”

As of 3:30 Sunday, 41,614 absentee ballots applications had been requested in Mahoning County with 37,403 returned by mail or voted in person. The total is about 2,500 below 2012 when the elections board “did 44,000 absentees in person and in the mail,” said Tom McCabe, deputy director. “We’re going to be close to that number this year.”

There are 4,000 fewer registered voters in Mahoning County this presidential election, 166,110 compared to 170,079 in 2012, reports Chris Rakocy, the board’s director of information technology. In-person early voting hours were reduced by one week this year, he notes.

Early voting officially ends at 2 p.m. today, but anyone in line by that time will still be able to vote.

“We have a lot of prep work to get ready for Tuesday,” McCabe said. “We’ll be scanning ballots that are coming in the mail – it’s going to be a very heavy volume – and we’ll do our last-minute training with supervisors in the field.”

The polls open at 6:30 a.m.

Pictured: The line grew to 350 voters Sunday at the Mahoning County elections board, and the wait was more than two hours.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.