By David Skolnick
Supporters of President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, don’t agree on much, but both strongly support early voting.
The two campaigns had separate press conferences Tuesday outside the Mahoning County Board of Elections to criticize the opposition, praise their candidate and urge people to vote early.
“Let’s get the early vote out,” said Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who stopped in Youngstown as part of the “Commit to Mitt Early Vote Express Tour.”
“Frankly, the other side has beaten us too often on the ground game,” Brownback said. “We’ve not been good at it, but this time around, the numbers really favor us.”
Also, members of the United Auto Workers, including Bob King, its national president, urged people to vote early at a rally. About 125 people, several of whom are UAW members, attended the event in support of Obama and other Democrats.
“The early vote is going to be a major key in this election,” said Ken Lortz, director of UAW’s Region 2B, which includes all of Ohio and Indiana. “It’s extremely important.”
As of Tuesday, the Mahoning County Board of Elections had received requests from 29,238 people for mail-in ballots with 22,017 of them already returning their ballots. Also, 5,375 people have voted in-person at the elections board in Oakhill Renaissance Place on Oak Hill Avenue in Youngstown.
In total, the county has 27,392 people who have voted by mail or in-person at the board so far.
Of those who have requested absentee ballots or have voted in person, 12,507 are Democrats and 3,962 are Republicans; the remaining 18,144 are overwhelmingly independents, with a very small number being members of a third political party such as Green and Libertarian, according to elections officials.
Breaking down the in-person voters, 2,635 are Democrats, 555 Republicans and 2,185 are independents combined with a very small number of third-party members.
During the 2008 presidential election, 41,225 people voted early by mail and at the board before Election Day, about 32 percent of those who voted in that election.
Though there are about 8,000 fewer registered voters in the county this year compared with 2008 and no weekend voting for this election, except during the last weekend before the Nov. 6 election, there will definitely be more people voting early in this election than in 2008, said board Director Joyce Kale-Pesta.
The board is averaging about 320 to 350 early-voters a day with that number jumping to 491 on Monday, when extended in-person hours began, Kale-Pesta said.
More than 3,000 people voted in 2008 on the final Saturday, Sunday and Monday at the board.
Of the county’s 170,105 registered voters, 43,682 are Democrats, 17,554 are Republicans, and the remaining 108,869 are independents with a small number third-party members.
When asked about Monday’s debate between Obama and Romney, the surrogates for the candidates had different views.
Obama proved he is “so knowledgeable on foreign affairs,” and that he is a “real strong leader,” King said.
The UAW president praised Obama for rescuing the auto industry.
“Ohio would still be in a deep recession if it was not for President Obama standing behind American companies and standing behind American workers,” King said.
Earlier Tuesday, Brownback said Romney “really cleaned up” in the debate and “he looked like the president much more than the president.”
Romney’s key point during the debate was “you can’t have a strong foreign policy without a strong economy,” Brownback said. “You’ve got to have that strong economy. It’s a very fundamental basis for our foreign policy.”
Brownback said Romney “pointed out the problems with the presidency” with Obama’s policies producing a “bad economy and a weak foreign policy.”
King criticized Romney for “changing his story on the auto industry every time he talks.”
Without the auto bailout, “Ohio would still be in a deep recession if it was not for President Obama standing behind American companies and standing behind American workers,” King said.