President Barack Obama waves as he walks on stage with first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha at his election night party in Chicago.
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By MARC KOVAC and DAVID SKOLNICK
The campaign ads have ended, but election-related debates likely will continue in the weeks and months ahead. That’s partially because the official ballot count won’t be completed until later in the month. Here are a dozen things to think about from this election’s unofficial results and what’s ahead in 2013 and 2014:
1 Turnout: 68.05 percent of Ohio’s registered voters cast ballots — 5.4 million of nearly 8 million.
That compares with 69.97 percent (5.8 million of 8.3 million) in 2008.
Turnout in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties is currently lower than the 2008 presidential election.
Turnout in Mahoning for this election was 70.07 percent compared with 72.31 percent in 2008. The numbers in Trumbull were 65.79 percent now compared with 72.65 percent in 2008, and in Columbiana it was 68.58 percent now compared with 70.31 percent in 2008.
Highland and Clermont counties reported the highest turnout, at 96.75 percent and 92.64 percent, respectively. Both are smaller counties in southwestern Ohio near Cincinnati.
Miami County, north of Dayton, had the lowest, with just 17,018 of 70,675 voters casting ballots (24.08 percent).
2 Still to Count: There are still nearly 325,000 ballots that could be counted, though the final number likely will be much smaller.
A total of 119,535 absentee ballots remain outstanding, meaning voters requested them before Election Day but either failed to cast them, opted to vote provisionally in person Tuesday or mailed them too late for county boards to add to the unofficial count.
But as long as valid absentee ballots by mail are postmarked no later than this past Monday and arrive at a county elections board by Nov. 16, they will be counted.
An additional 205,422 ballots were cast provisionally by people who forgot their IDs, neglected to update their
registration addresses or who faced other questions about their eligibility.
The state’s big-city counties had the highest totals of the latter, with more than 30,000 in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties and 17,000-plus in Hamilton County.
3 Final Results: County election boards will begin counting provisional ballots no earlier than Nov. 17 and no later than Nov. 21. Final results must be certified by Nov. 27.
Depending on the margins in some races, the provisional and absentee ballots could swing the results. They could also trigger an automatic recount if the final differences between winners and losers are within a quarter or half percent.
4 Valley Matters: Despite only one visit during this campaign by President Barack Obama to the Mahoning Valley, the area remains a Democratic stronghold.
Mahoning County gave 63.2 percent of its vote to Obama, and the president received 60.23 percent of the vote in Trumbull County.
Obama’s margin of victory in Mahoning was the fifth largest and in Trumbull the sixth largest among the 88 counties in the state.
5 GOP Control: Republicans lost the White House, but they maintained their majority control of the Ohio Statehouse, with a 23-10 margin in the Senate and a 60-39 margin in the House.
Republicans unofficially have a net gain of one seat in the House, though the final ratio could change when additional absentee and provisional ballots are added in several races.
While Republicans did well in Columbiana County, freshman state Rep. Craig Newbold, a Republican from Columbiana, is losing his re-election bid by 383 votes to Columbiana County Treasurer Nick Barborak, a Democrat from Lisbon. There are still 1,029 provisional ballots to be considered in the race. The county recorder race, two levies and a liquor option are also very close. It’s possible the official results for those races won’t be known until early December.
The GOP retained all 15 of its seats in the Senate, with Democrats retaining three. The closest race was between incumbent Sen. Lou Gentile, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Shane Thompson in the 30th District, south of Columbiana County. Republicans thought they could wrest the seat from the minority party, but Gentile snagged nearly 53 percent of the votes in the unofficial tally.
6 Tim Ryan: Fresh off a 45-percentage-point victory, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, plans in January to reclaim the House Appropriations Committee seat he lost nearly two years ago when Republicans took control of the House.
The committee oversees about $1 trillion in spending bills, and in the past, its members were often able to steer millions of dollars into their districts. Because of Democrats leaving the House at the end of the year, Ryan has the seniority to get back on the committee.
With U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, remaining on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Ryan said the two will work together to bring much-needed money for economic development and other worthy projects to the area.
7 What’s in a Name: Many are scratching their heads over the unofficial results in three races for the Ohio Supreme Court.
Two incumbents, one a Democrat and one a Republican, lost, while one other incumbent won by a big margin. They all had one thing in common: Irish-sounding last names: Terrence O’Donnell, Bill O’Neill, and Sharon Kennedy.
Justice O’Donnell had no trouble beating Michael Skindell, his opponent, by nearly 39 percentage points.
Surprisingly, Justice Robert Cupp lost by 4.62 percentage points to O’Neill, a former Warren-based 11th District Court of Appeals judge, who raised no money for his race and was seeking to join the state’s highest court for the third time.
Also, Justice Yvette McGee Brown lost by 14.54 percentage points to Kennedy, the only Ohio Supreme Court justice candidate not recommended by the state bar association in 14 years.
Stephen Brooks, associate director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said name recognition can be a deciding factor in nonpartisan judicial races, particularly in election years where public attention is focused on the presidential contest and other top-of-the-ballot contests.
Judicial races are even more challenging from a public awareness standpoint, because candidates are limited in how they present themselves to the electorate, he said.
8 Campaign Spending: Outside groups pumped millions of dollars into ads this election cycle, further evidence of a need for reform, said Sen. Brown, who topped Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the most-expensive Senate race in the country.
“I think voters will, in a funny sort of way, welcome beer ads, cars ads and detergent ads,” Brown said Wednesday. “I think that voters were sick of this. I think voters were particularly sick not just of the quantity but of the nature of the attack ads.
9 Focus Shift: The Ohio Democratic Party is already eyeing the next gubernatorial election, distributing signs featuring pictures of Gov. John Kasich that read “2014 Can’t Come Soon Enough” and “You’re Next.”
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said he expected gubernatorial candidates from his side of the aisle to make themselves known in the near future, but he was mum on any specific names.
10 Absentee Applications: Voting rights advocates complained this week that absentee ballot applications sent by the secretary of state’s office to most eligible voters caused too much confusion among the electorate.
Conversely, advocates earlier complained when Secretary of State John Husted attempted to block county boards from sending unsolicited absentee applications to voters.
11 Redistricting: The 2013 election could garner more interest than typical off-year contests, with the potential for several statewide ballot issues.
Backers of a gay marriage amendment and a right-to-work amendment have been circulating petitions for months with hopes of qualifying for the ballot.
Additionally, the Ohio Democratic Party indicated Wednesday that it may pursue another redistricting reform referendum, after the failure of Issue 2 on Tuesday.
A bipartisan legislative committee already is studying the issue and could offer a fix of its own. A separate committee reviewing the state constitution could present other changes to the process.
12 Early Voting: Republican Senate President Tom Niehaus still plans to move forward with a working group to study election-related issues and recommend law changes.
Asked Tuesday night about the issue, Niehaus said he thought Election Day ran smoothly without any major issues.
But legislation could still be offered in lame duck addressing early voting, provisional ballots and other issues that prompted debate in recent weeks.
Democrats said they are ready to block any such legislation that didn’t receive bipartisan support.
“We are well prepared to do that,” Redfern said, adding, “And frankly we’re looking for things to do, so I urge President Niehaus to not tamper with the early voting weekends.”