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2018 was a big election year in Ohio. Republicans held onto all five statewide executive offices including governor and super majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate. But there were a few bright spots for Democrats, among them the reelection of U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and the election of two Democrats to the Ohio Supreme Court.With election 2018 over, the focus now shifts to governing. Stay connected with the latest on politics, policies and people making the decisions at all levels affecting your lives.

Early Ohio Voters Shift Democratic -- and No Where More So Than in Lorain County

Photo of Tony Giardini

In the week before Ohio’s primary, about 20 percent more voters were requesting and casting Democratic ballots than Republican. It’s a swing the opposite way from the 2016 primary, when interest in the GOP presidential primary surged. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke about the changes with the chairman of the Democratic Party of Lorain County, where the shift has been among the most significant in the state.

Lorain County remained Democratic in 2016 – barely. It wasn’t until the provisional ballots were counted that it ended up in the handful of counties in Ohio that went for Hillary Clinton. Tony Giardini, the Democratic Party chair and a member of the Lorain County Board of Elections, watches early voting numbers closely and he didn’t like what he saw in 2016.

“In the Republican primary, I saw voters asking for Republican ballots at double or close to double what Democrats were asking for,” he says even in traditionally and heavily Democratic Lorain County.

“That made me really nervous, and it turned out I was right. Lorain County went basically 50-50 between Trump and Hillary. And you could see that level of enthusiasm way back in April of 2016.”

“I'm happy to say I’m not seeing that same thing this year. We’re outrunning Republicans 2-1.

Immigration and the Puerto Rico debacle
“And by the way, we’re bringing in more early votes/absentee votes everywhere in the county, including suburban townships and rural areas that end to be more Republican.

Giardini doesn’t believe most are new voters, though he’s encouraged by activism of younger voters.

But overall, “I think they’re mostly voters who are coming back” to the Democratic Party.

In one significant way, Lorain County is not reflective of the state. It has the largest concentration of Hispanic voters in Ohio. Giardini says immigration is a major issue for many of them this year.

“Even if you are not an immigrant, I guarantee you, if you’re of Hispanic descent – Puerto Rican or Mexican – you have some very, very strong feelings about the issue. And you know somebody -- or a member of your family or a member of your extended family -- is being impacted by what I would consider political gamesmanship that’s being played with the immigration issue.

“And although Puerto Ricans aren’t immigrants -- they’re U.S. citizens – how we have mishandled rebuilding of Puerto Rico (after the hurricanes), I think has really irritated them. They’re understandably and justifiably upset.”

Yet Giardini acknowledges Hispanic voters are not single-issue voters. Many are conservative on social issues such as abortion.

“Most Hispanics tend to be Christian, many are evangelical Christians or Catholics. And yeah, for some of them, they feel so strongly about their religious views that that’s a deal breaker for them.

“Always has been, though. That’s not something new.”

Ohio voting sticker
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / WKSU public radio

What is knew, he says, is the reality of what President Trump has done on the immigration front.

“In 2016, they were kind of guessing what Trump would do. In 2018, they know what he will do and has done.”

The early voting numbers from the Secretary of State’s office showed more Democrats requesting and casting early ballots both in person and by mail. Early voting ends at 2 this afternoon at boards of elections throughout the state. Regular voting hours are 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at local polling places.