By David Skolnick
Election officials in the Mahoning Valley aren’t expecting huge voter turnout Tuesday, but they say the percentage of those casting ballots will be higher than the last gubernatorial election year.
Turnout in Mahoning County for this election should be 58 percent to 59 percent, said Joyce Kale-Pesta, deputy director of that county’s board of elections. Mahoning’s turnout in 2006, the last gubernatorial election year, was 56 percent.
Kelly Pallante, Trumbull County Board of Elections’ director, expects 60 percent of registered voters in her county to cast ballots, compared with 58 percent in 2006.
Adam Booth, Columbiana County Board of Elections’ director, is predicting turnout of 50 percent to 55 percent for this election. Only 47 percent of those registered voted in that county’s election in 2006.
The election officials say a close gubernatorial election is the main reason they expect turnout to be better this year than in 2006.
The gubernatorial election pits Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, against Republican John Kasich.
For Strickland to retain the seat, he’ll need strong voter turnout in the largely Democratic Mahoning Valley.
A majority of early voters in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties with a political party affiliation are Democrats.
In Mahoning County, there are 181,759 registered voters, up from 178,443 in November 2009, Kale-Pesta said.
Among registered voters with political party affiliations, 79,733 are registered Democrats and 15,893 are Republicans, or 83 percent to 17 percent in favor of Democrats.
As of Friday afternoon, 21,966 Mahoning County people voted early with 13,652 being registered Democrats compared with 3,158 Republicans, or 81 percent to 19 percent in favor of Democrats, Kale-Pesta said. The rest are independent voters, and a small number are members of third parties such as the Libertarians and Greens, she said.
In comparison, 15,291 people voted early in the 2006 gubernatorial election year in Mahoning County.
“It’s been a very busy year,” said Kale-Pesta. “People are voting early. They want to get it over. A lot of older folks like voting on paper ballots. The [electronic voting] machines sort of intimidate some of the older voters.”
For those waiting to vote on Election Day, Tuesday, the polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
In Trumbull County, there are 149,685 voters, up from 147,582 in November 2009.
Among registered voters with party affiliations, 68,027 are Democrats compared with 15,962 Republicans, or 81 percent to 19 percent favoring Democrats.
Trumbull had 14,251 early voters as of late Thursday with 8,354 being registered Democrats and 2,668 registered Republicans, or 76 percent to 24 percent in favor of Democrats. As in Mahoning, the rest of the Trumbull early voters are primarily independent voters with a few third-party voters.
In 2006, there were 10,482 early voters in Trumbull, Pallante said.
Columbiana County has 71,043 registered voters compared with 69,658 in November 2009.
Among those registered, 20,358 are Democrats and 11,903 are Republicans, said Kim Meeks, the county’s deputy elections director. That means Democrats outnumber Republicans 63 percent to 37 percent among registered voters.
As of Friday afternoon, only 5,146 people voted early with 1,900 being registered Democrats compared with 1,577 Republicans, or 55 percent to 45 percent in favor of Democrats. Nearly all the other early voters are not affiliated with the two major political parties with a handful being members of third parties.
To compare, 4,387 voters in Columbiana County cast early ballots in 2006.
As for the low number of early voters in Columbiana, Booth said it’s possible “our voters are old-school and like to go to the polls and get their [voting] stickers.”