Election officials predict ‘extremely light’ turnout
By David Skolnick
If you go to the polls to vote in Tuesday’s primary in the Mahoning Valley, don’t worry about long lines.
Area election officials expect about two-thirds of registered voters not to bother casting ballots in the primary.
“It will be extremely light; we’ll struggle to get to 30 percent,” said Adam Booth, Columbiana County Board of Elections director. “I’d be shocked if it crept up to the mid-30s or into the 40s. There’s nothing driving” turnout.
Thomas McCabe, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, is expecting turnout in Mahoning to be 32 percent, “and that could be high. That’s being generous.”
In Trumbull County, turnout for Tuesday’s primary will be about 30 percent to 35 percent, said Kelly Pallante, its board of elections director.
The top reason for expected poor turnout, McCabe and Booth said, is no Democratic presidential primary. President Barack Obama runs unopposed.
“A Democratic presidential primary in Mahoning County drives up turnout,” McCabe said. “There are not a large number of Republicans [in the county]. Even the Republicans I speak to haven’t focused on a candidate.”
There are contested races — most notably for county prosecutor, sheriff and a commissioner seat being vacated by John McNally IV — and Mahoning is one of the most Democratic counties in the state. But McCabe doesn’t expect many ballots will be cast.
Turnout during the March 4, 2008, primary, which had a Democratic presidential race between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, was much higher in the Mahoning Valley than the expected turnout for Tuesday, which has a four-man Republican presidential primary.
In the 2008 primary, turnout in Mahoning County was 55.6 percent, it was 56.6 percent in Trumbull and 46.8 percent in Columbiana.
Also, early voting is down considerably in the three counties for this primary compared to four years ago.
There are about 5,800 early voters in Mahoning County for this primary compared to 16,017 in 2008. In Trumbull County, there are about 4,000 early voters for this primary compared to 9,521 in 2008. In Columbiana County, there are about 1,300 early voters for this primary compared to about 2,000 four years ago.
Early “voting is a microcosm of the overall election,” Booth said. “That’s why I expect turnout to be low. There’s nothing countywide on the Democratic end” except for county recorder and the 6th Congressional District.
Before early voting started on Jan. 31, Pallante expected about 15,000 people to cast ballots that way.
“I really thought based on the type of year we were in, with it being a presidential year, the number would be higher,” Pallante said. “It puzzles me that we haven’t hawd more voters.”