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Government & Politics

Early voting for Ohio's May 3 primary is lagging behind 2018's primary turnout

 Franklin County poll worker sets up a machine for an early in-person voter at the county's Early Vote Center Oct 23, 2018
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
A Franklin County poll worker sets up a machine for an early in-person voter at the county's Early Vote Center Oct. 23, 2018.

Despite hotly contested races on the Republican and Democratic primary ballots, the turnout for early voting in Ohio is down nearly 30% compared with the number of ballots cast at this point in the 2018 primary four years ago.

There are two weeks to go before the May 3 primary, and Ohioans have been casting absentee ballots by mail and in-person since April 5.

As of April 15, around 125,000 early ballots have been requested. That is down 27% compared to 171,954 absentee ballots requested two weeks prior to the 2018 primary.

Of the ballots requested for the May 3 primary, 44,994 have been returned or cast in-person. That's down nearly 30% from 2018 numbers when 63,253 absentee ballots had been cast at this point.

Democratic voter turnout is slightly outpacing Republican turnout with 22,795 Democrats casting an early ballot compared to 21,636 Republican ballots returned.

One thing that isn't on the ballot this May are races for the Ohio Legislature. The Ohio Redistricting Commission has not yet adopted state legislative district maps that are deemed constitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Another election will have to be held so voters can decide primary contests for Ohio House and Ohio Senate seats.

Exactly when that primary will be held is in question. The Ohio Association of Election Officials is urging lawmakers to allow that primary to happen Aug. 2, the date already on the schedule for some local communities.

Aaron Ockerman, director of the election group, said Aug. 2 is the perfect date for a second primary because it allows elections officials time to wrap up the May 3 vote and doesn’t push a legislative primary too close to the November general election. Plus, he said it would be confusing for communities having local elections Aug. 2 if they need to have an additional legislative election on another day around that same time.

Ohio Sec. of State Frank LaRose agreed with the elections leaders. In a written letter to state leaders, LaRose explained Ohio elections operate on a 90-day calendar. He said elections boards need about 60 days to prepare for an election and another 30 days to conclude it. He said if you apply the timetables for elections as set in state law between the May 3 primary and the Nov. 8 general election, you land on Aug. 2. He said that's why state law dictates Aug. 2 as a date to have a special election. LaRose said elections dates are not "artificial" but carefully planned and executed.

The Ohio Supreme Court wrote in its latest opinion invalidating the most recent round of state legislative district maps that the state could have a second primary on a date later than Aug. 2.

There's no word on when Ohio's legislative leaders might decide to have a future election for legislative seats or when they might adopt another proposal for state legislative district maps.
Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.