Voters in Lorain County are taking advantage of the opportunity to vote early, according to numbers from the Board of Elections. Digging into those early numbers doesn’t really show which way elections may swing, though.
As of Thursday, 27,184 voters in the county had requested a mail absentee ballot, with 9.738 voters having returned their ballots, so far. The number already has exceeded the number of absentee ballots requested by voters in the 2014 general election (22,394), which also was a gubernatorial election, according to Board of Elections Director Paul Adams.
The number of voters who have voted absentee in person at the Board of Election office also has seen a large uptick, according to Adams. In 2014, 4,610 people voted absentee in the office. As of Thursday, 5,046 have voted absentee in the office, and Adams said next week is when the office sees the majority of voters come in for absentee voting.
So why are people turning out to vote in such large numbers?
“I think there’s just an awful lot of interest in this election,” Adams said. “I think people see how close these statewide races are, and I think it’s pulling people out.”
Democrats are voting absentee in office at nearly a 2-1 rate of Republicans, according to the numbers. As of Thursday, 2,695 Democrats had voted absentee in office, while 1,450 Republicans had done so.
In terms of mail absentees, 7,039 of the requested ballots were from Democrats, 7,988 from Republicans and the rest from “unaffiliated” voters. So far, 3,129 ballots from registered Republicans have been returned, 3,028 ballots from registered Democrats have been returned and 3,581 ballots from unaffiliated voters have been returned.
Lorain County currently has 214,629 registered voters with 43,711 registered as Republicans and 42,993 being registered as Democrats, according to Adams.
What does that mean that mean for this year’s general election? It’s hard to say, he said.
The number of Republicans in relation to Democrats is still part of a residual effect of the 2016 primary presidential election because of the way Ohio party registration works.
“Party affiliation in Ohio, unlike in other places, is not determined by when you’re registering whatever you choose when you’re registering or at any other point,” Adams said. “It’s determined by which ballot you pull in a primary election.”
Because of that, it can be difficult to determine how many Democrats, Republicans, third-party or independent voters are in the county.
“Because (party affiliation) is not determined by what your registration is but by which was the last party ballot that you pulled, we still see a bump of Republicans because of how many Republicans voted in the presidential primary back in 2016,” Adams said. “The other part of that is those people that we as election officials call ‘unaffiliated’ because you may have some of the people who consider themselves Democrats or Republicans, it’s just that they don’t vote in primary elections or haven’t done so recently.”
The county saw a similar situation after the 2008 Democratic presidential primary between Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton, Adams said.
In January 2009, there were 73,177 registered Democrats in the county, compared to 24,970 Republicans, Adams said. In the November 2010 general election there were still 66,700 registered Democrats in Lorain County, compared to 24,970 Republicans.
“In 2008, when there was the huge presidential primary between Obama and Hillary, you had this unbelievably high number of registered Democrats,” Adams said. “I don’t know that all of those people necessarily considered themselves Democrats; they just wanted to vote in that election.
“Now what we’re looking at is an increase in those numbers because of how many people voted in the Republican primary for president in 2016.”
That doesn’t mean the number of registered Democrats and Republicans doesn’t mean anything, though.
“When you’re looking at those voter registration numbers, they certainly are helpful for determining trends,” Adams said. “But knowing where party affiliation comes from is also important when looking at those numbers.”