Early vote figures paint a muddled picture

In-person voting is way up compared to 2018, but the decline in absentee ballot requests means only a modest increase overall

By: - October 28, 2022 4:50 am

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The latest early voting figures from the Secretary of State’s office show a modest 1.8% increase compared to this point in the last midterm cycle. But there’s an interesting shift happening within those numbers.

Latest figures

Absentee ballot requests make up the lion’s share of the more than 1 million ballots cast or requested. They lag 2018 by about 22,000 ballots. The number of early votes cast in person, meanwhile, appears to be surging. The 135,889 ballots reported this Tuesday represents an almost 45% increase over the same point in the previous cycle.

“With two weeks until Election Day, any eligible Ohio voter still planning to vote absentee should mail their request in as soon as possible,” Secretary of State Frank LaRose said in a press release. “Our bipartisan county boards of elections are working hard to conduct the proper checks and get ballots mailed out as quickly as possible.”

LaRose added that voters can also track their ballot online.

Now for the grain of salt — the secretary’s figures are unofficial, and the revisions can be substantial. Due to a data entry error, last week’s early in-person vote total dropped from more than 70,000 ballots cast to only about 50,000. A spokesman for the secretary of state explained they tally early vote totals through surveys sent out to county boards. He chalked up the mistake to human error and said they don’t expect to see further issues.

Even with the revisions to the previous week’s figures, 2022 was still outpacing 2018 in early in-person votes. But instead of the eye-popping 74% increase between cycles prior to the correction, the actual increase is more like 22%.

Partisan implications

Democrats are more likely than Republicans to vote early, but the glut of in-person ballots shouldn’t be too comforting. Democratic strongholds like Franklin, Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties are still far short of 2018’s eventual totals. Franklin’s roughly 10,000 ballots is less than a fifth of 2018’s final tally, Cuyahoga County is running at a similar rate. Hamilton’s roughly 7300 ballots is about a third of 2018’s early in-person total.

Meanwhile counties like Butler and Warren just north of Cincinnati and Medina to the west of Akron are all in the top ten for early in-person voting so far. All three are outpacing Cuyahoga County. All three backed Republican Jim Renacci in 2018 and Donald Trump in 2020.

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.



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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.