Voters turn up to cast ballots early

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Voters turn up to cast ballots early

Ohio voters on Tuesday cast the state’s first ballots in this year’s hotly contested presidential election, as early voting began in all 88 counties.

A statewide tally for for today’s in-person absentee voting was not available, however six area counties - Montgomery, Greene, Warren, Clark, Champaign and Butler - reported 2,339 ballots cast. Eight percent of the 1.13 million registered voters in those counties plus Miami, Preble and Darke have requested absentee ballots, according to a Dayton Daily News analysis of data provided by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office.

“I could not be more pleased in terms of the process,” said Steve Harsman, deputy director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections. “The turnout is higher than typical for a first day, but I think with the campers out on the lawn and the controversy with the early voting hours, I think they tried to make a statement.”

As of Friday nearly 12 percent of Ohio’s 7.9 million registered voters had requested absentee ballots, which are mailed to voters by local boards of elections in response to the applications.

The number of people who choose to vote absentee by mail or in person is likely to increase this year after an unprecedented statewide campaign that includes ballot applications mailed to every home and television and radio advertising by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“From a social marketing perspective we would expect the more times the message, ‘Send in your absentee ballots,’ gets repeated the more people will be likely to do that because it gets drummed into their heads,” said Benjamin Bates, associate professor of communication studies at Ohio University.

“They’re emphasizing the convenience and ease of being able to vote from home,” Bates said. “You can vote in your pajamas.”

Statewide numbers are not available for absentee ballot applications in the last presidential election, but in that 2008 election 30 percent of nearly 5.8 million ballots cast were absentee.

The largest number of requests for absentee ballots for this year’s General Election came from Cuyahoga County, where nearly 20 percent of the 914,419 registered voters asked for ballots, according to state data. Cuyahoga — home to Cleveland — is the largest county in the state.

There is no noticeable trend among counties, with tiny Belmont County ranking second followed by large-sized Franklin County (Columbus) and mid-sized Lake County. Montgomery County had the lowest rate of requests among all the urban counties, ranking 54th of 88 counties, with 7.9 percent of 380,145 registered voters requesting ballots.

In the nine-county Dayton region Warren County had the highest percentage - 10.8 percent requesting ballots - and Preble County had the lowest at 5.7 percent.

 

 

Absentee ballot requests by voters in area counties

County

Registered voters

Ballot requests

Percent requesting

Rank

Butler

237,111

20,130

8.5%

46

Champaign

27,428

1,867

6.8%

78

Clark

90,468

7,922

8.8%

42

Darke

36,257

2,211

6.1%

84

Greene

122,617

10,322

8.4%

48

Miami

70,205

6,400

9.1%

38

Montgomery

380,145

29,928

7.9%

54

Preble

28,700

1,644

5.7%

86

Warren

144,817

15,604

10.8%

21

Total

1,137,748

96,028

8%

Source: Ohio Secretary of State as of 9-28-12

 

 

Husted spokesman Matthew McClellan said the state spent $1.6 million in federal funds for two mailings of applications and notices to people who are registered but moved. Another $75,000 was paid to the Ohio Association of Broadcasters to get Husted’s absentee voting public service ad placed on local television and radio stations in Ohio. The ad is not running on national cable networks.

“This is the first time that there’s been a statewide effort to send absentee ballots,” McClellan said. “We really do think this was a good investment and a good use of funds.”

Christine Merritt, president of the broadcasters group, said radio and television stations voluntarily run the ads for free, fitting them in where they can. In exchange, the association uses the money to provide services such as training to the 300 radio stations and 40 TV stations that are its members, Merritt said. The campaign will run through Election Day, when Husted’s office will get an accounting of where and when the ad ran, McClellan said.

“Our goal is to deliver $3 (in ad spots) for every $1 invested,” Merritt said. “I think we’ve got good participation statewide.”

Absentee voting rules were liberalized in 2005 when voters no longer had to state a reason for needing to vote absentee. Since than voting by mail or in person before Election Day has proven increasingly popular. Urban counties, including Cuyahoga and Montgomery, had typically mailed absentee ballot applications to voters as a way to reduce the wait at the polls on Election Day in the wake of the 2004 presidential election when longs lines and other problems received negative national attention.

Husted’s decision to mail the absentee ballot applications stemmed from a 2011 dispute with Cuyahoga County, when he ruled in a directive that counties could not send out unsolicited applications because it was unfair to voters in counties that didn’t send them. Election officials in Cuyahoga and Montgomery County said the mailings were a service to voters. Husted reached an agreement with the county boards that he would, for the 2012 election only, send applications statewide, a stance he has not altered.

Susan Hesselgesser, executive director of the League of Women Voters of the Greater Dayton Area, said the applications should be mailed to all registered voters every year.

“We believe that anything that makes voting easier and more accessible for voters is a good thing,” she said.

Voters who chose to skip the mail and vote in person came out across the region, although area boards of elections had very different experiences.

Montgomery County had 695 voters while Champaign County had just 88. In Butler County 540 voters cast ballots. Clark County, which has been a battleground for Republicans and Democrats, had a higher first-day voter turnout - 380 - than larger counties like Warren and Greene, which had 282 and 354 respectively.

“I was just surprised; we didn’t have this (turnout) in 2008 that I recall,” said BOE Deputy Director Sally Pickarski. “It’s been fairly steady all day.”

In Dayton, a group of about 20 Obama supporters camped outside the Board of Elections overnight in tents.

About 15 BOE staffers waited at computer terminals to check in early voters, and more than 100 people voted there in the first hour, including Voters No. 1 and No. 2 – former Montgomery County Board of Elections members Tom Ritchie Sr. and Dennis Lieberman, who were ousted by Husted in a dispute over early voting hours.

On the other hand, in Troy, a slow trickle of voters wandered in a side door of the county courthouse, where a single table in a hallway held absentee ballot applications. Miami County BOE Director Steve Quillen helped many voters himself.

Local election officials reported few problems.

“There was an awful lot to vote on, and you need to find out who your representatives are and get educated before you go into the polls,” said Ralph Iman of Trotwood.

Many early voters on Tuesday were people who said they vote early because it is convenient.

“I’m self-employed and I have a couple of businesses, so for me, this is very handy,” said Mary Ann Weber of Miami County. “I’m busy and this works for me.”

 

 

Absentee ballot requests by voters in Ohio

County

Registered voters

Ballot requests

Percent requesting

Rank

Cuyahoga

914,419

182,295

19.9%

1

Belmont

49,437

8,842

17.9%

2

Franklin

791,037

125,458

15.9%

3

Lake

151,904

23,133

15.2%

4

Summit

359,585

49,685

13.8%

5

Madison

24,163

3,328

13.8%

6

Delaware

124,293

16,722

13.5%

7

Fairfield

105,550

14,025

13.3%

8

Lorain

210,506

27,968

13.3%

9

Mahoning

169,049

21,416

12.7%

10

Licking

111,180

13,747

12.4%

11

Muskingum

53,600

6,564

12.2%

12

Coshocton

22,199

2,710

12.2%

13

Hamilton

553,482

67,321

12.2%

14

Geauga

66,265

7,818

11.8%

15

Morgan

8,896

1,025

11.5%

16

Vinton

8,642

991

11.5%

17

Tuscarawas

59,623

6,720

11.3%

18

Stark

256,053

28,207

11.0%

19

Medina

123,520

13,383

10.8%

20

Warren

144,817

15,604

10.8%

21

Ross

46,516

5,012

10.8%

22

Clermont

131,504

14,039

10.7%

23

Erie

53,499

5,605

10.5%

24

Pickaway

33,008

3,446

10.4%

25

Harrison

10,656

1,106

10.4%

26

Jefferson

49,137

5,098

10.4%

27

Knox

42,161

4,264

10.1%

28

Ottawa

30,494

3,072

10.1%

29

Huron

36,619

3,685

10.1%

30

Hocking

18,184

1,823

10.0%

31

Portage

106,612

10,576

9.9%

32

Mercer

29,483

2,779

9.4%

33

Guernsey

24,486

2,287

9.3%

34

Lucas

305,013

28,235

9.3%

35

Perry

24,289

2,234

9.2%

36

Carroll

18,830

1,725

9.2%

37

Miami

70,205

6,400

9.1%

38

Union

33,624

3,062

9.1%

39

Crawford

29,279

2,634

9.0%

40

Monroe

10,431

916

8.8%

41

Clark

90,468

7,922

8.8%

42

Noble

8,937

773

8.6%

43

Trumbull

150,675

13,006

8.6%

44

Washington

42,574

3,629

8.5%

45

Butler

237,111

20,130

8.5%

46

Clinton

26,450

2,235

8.4%

47

Greene

122,617

10,322

8.4%

48

Pike

18,682

1,566

8.4%

49

Ashtabula

64,313

5,357

8.3%

50

Jackson

24,097

1,987

8.2%

51

Columbiana

66,321

5,263

7.9%

52

Defiance

25,643

2,032

7.9%

53

Montgomery

380,145

29,928

7.9%

54

Auglaize

31,294

2,390

7.6%

55

Putnam

23,775

1,782

7.5%

56

Adams

18,210

1,358

7.5%

57

Wayne

76,930

5,694

7.4%

58

Allen

69,176

5,070

7.3%

59

Fulton

29,095

2,125

7.3%

60

Morrow

24,660

1,799

7.3%

61

Ashland

36,418

2,642

7.3%

62

Richland

89,021

6,455

7.3%

63

Hardin

18,325

1,321

7.2%

64

Paulding

13,079

939

7.2%

65

Hancock

54,360

3,872

7.1%

66

Brown

28,348

2,016

7.1%

67

Scioto

47,115

3,348

7.1%

68

Seneca

36,184

2,571

7.1%

69

Sandusky

41,109

2,908

7.1%

70

Wyandot

15,760

1,113

7.1%

71

Holmes

18,326

1,286

7.0%

72

Fayette

16,170

1,131

7.0%

73

Williams

25,119

1,750

7.0%

74

Shelby

32,723

2,275

7.0%

75

Logan

30,424

2,104

6.9%

76

Athens

47,512

3,251

6.8%

77

Champaign

27,428

1,867

6.8%

78

Lawrence

49,539

3,366

6.8%

79

Wood

107,623

7,078

6.6%

80

Gallia

22,286

1,419

6.4%

81

Meigs

16,668

1,052

6.3%

82

Vanwert

20,825

1,286

6.2%

83

Darke

36,257

2,211

6.1%

84

Henry

20,196

1,181

5.8%

85

Preble

28,700

1,644

5.7%

86

Marion

41,950

2,267

5.4%

87

Highland

28,404

1,341

4.7%

88

TOTAL

7,893,292

933,022

11.8%

 

Source: Ohio Secretary of State as of 9-28-12

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