Final early vote tally shows nearly 700,000 Ohioans have already voted

By: - August 8, 2023 4:50 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — MAY 10: Linda Wagner of Galena holds up a sign during a protest against Issue 1 before the Ohio House session, May 10, 2023, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

After nearly a year of political wrangling, Ohioans decide today whether to make it harder to both bring amendment proposals and to amend the state constitution. But many have already banked their votes. This year’s August special election — typically a sleepy, low turnout affair — has seen historic turnout already.

Final figures

Nearly 700,000 Ohioans cast a ballot early either by showing up in person or returning an absentee ballot. Those figures will likely climb further as additional ballots arrive in the mail.

According to a press release there are roughly 7.9 million registered voters in the state. The early vote alone puts statewide turnout at 8.77%. That’s more than the statewide turnout in the entire election last August which included statehouse primary races.

The biggest share of early votes came from in-person voting. Across 21 days of early voting, 490,094 voters cast a ballot. That’s more than three times the share of in-person votes cast during last May’s primary election. In-person turnout peaked last Friday when just over 44,000 voters showed up at their county boards of elections.

Another 207,205 voters returned absentee ballots in the mail, in-person or via dropbox. Boards will continue accepting ballots postmarked by Aug. 7 so long as they arrive by Aug. 12. That arrival window is far shorter than in recent years — four days instead of 10 — thanks to a law passed at the end of last year.

Ostensibly, that same measure did away with August elections except for local governments facing a fiscal emergency.

If you got an absentee ballot but haven’t sent it in yet, your best bet is to drop it off at the board in person. County boards of election will accept absentee ballots in person through the close of polls at 7:30 p.m. on Election Day Aug. 8.

MOUNT VERNON, Ohio — JULY 26: A yard sign in support of Ohio Issue 1 which if passed at the August 8 special election would require a 60% vote to pass future citizen-initiated amendments including the Reproductive Freedom Amendment which will be on the ballot in November, July 26, 2023, in Mount Vernon, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original article.)

County level turnout

Unsurprisingly, Ohio’s most populous — and most left-leaning — counties account for the greatest share of votes so far. But conservative counties just north of Cincinnati have seen significant turnout as well.

Butler County, which ranks as Ohio’s seventh most populous, ranks fourth in early vote share, for instance. In last year’s U.S. Senate race, Republican J.D. Vance beat Democrat Tim Ryan by 24 points in Butler County.

Other Republican-leaning counties like Delaware, just north of Columbus, are punching above their weight in terms of turnout as well.

Issue 1, however, may scramble the traditional red/blue expectations. Polling has been very limited, but a recent Suffolk University/USA Today survey indicated raising the threshold for constitutional amendments is unpopular on both sides of the aisle.

Pollsters found the vast majority of Democrats opposed Issue 1. Across the aisle, a plurality of Republicans opposed it, too. That split within the GOP was narrow — 41% opposed to 38% in support — and it falls within the poll’s margin of error. The survey also found about a fifth of Republicans were undecided.

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.