Politics

Election Boards Report Strong Early Voting

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Election officials in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties all report heightened interest in this year’s midterm elections.

With less than two weeks before the November general election, the directors of the three county elections offices say absentee ballot requests and early voting are ahead of the last midterm elections in 2014.

So far, the Trumbull County Board of Elections has issued 17,402 absentee ballots, reported director Stephanie Penrose. Of those, 9,641 ballots have been cast as of Thursday afternoon, not including ballots that arrived that day, she said.

“We are just having a barrage of absentee votes,” she said. In 2014, a total of 14,207 absentee ballots were cast in the county.

Similarly, Tom McCabe, deputy director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections, reported high activity. So far this election cycle, 24,406 absentee ballots have been sent out, and just over 12,000 had been returned as of yesterday, he said. By comparison, 21,200 early votes were cast total in the general election four years ago.

In Columbiana County, 6,413 ballots had been requested as of Wednesday afternoon this election cycle, and about 3,667 had been returned or cast in person, said Adam booth, director of the Columbiana County Board of Elections. During the 2014 general election, about 5,500 early votes were cast.

Local early voting and absentee ballot requests reflect heavier statewide interest in the midterm election. According to the office of Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, 962,829 had requested an absentee ballot by mail, 241,795 of which have been cast as of Friday. In addition, 90,868 voters requested and voted absentee ballots in person.

In 2014, nearly 810,000 absentee ballots had been requested and more than 272,000 at this point during absentee voting in 2010.

Area election officials cited several reasons influencing the activity.

Trumbull County’s Penrose attributed the early voting to factors including several candidates mailing absentee ballot applications to voters and discussion in the news media about the midterm election. In fact, she cited the use of the term “midterm,” one she previously didn’t hear often other than from media representatives.

“The news media talking about all this stuff on TV, it really gets people energized to vote,” she said. Township and city issues also drive voters to the polls, she said.

Mahoning County’s McCabe cited more competitive statewide races this year, including the governorship. According to the election official, tens of millions of dollars are being spent just in the governor’s race, and the seat being vacated by state Sen. Joe Schiavoni is drawing heavy spending as well, he said.

“Even that state representative race in the 59th [district] seems to be somewhat competitive,” McCabe said. There also is the county court race with six candidates, all of whom have raised and spent money on it.

Along with the state senate race and the statewide offices, certain school and bond issues might be driving action in Columbiana County, Booth said.

While fewer than half the registered voters turned out in the 2010 – 48% – or 2014 – 42% – midterms, the Columbiana elections official was confident turnout would crack the 50% threshold this year.

Penrose projected Trumbull voters’ turnout this year at 50% “minimum.” Turnout in 2014 was just 40.8%, she reported.

“One thing that always brings people out is not having an incumbent for governor,” she said.

The last midterm election that cracked the 50% mark in Mahoning County was in 2006, when turnout was 54%, McCabe reported. Turnout in 2014 was 41% and 48% in 2010. He and county elections director Joyce Kale Pesta expect turnout to reach 52% this year, he said.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.