By David Skolnick
Without a state issue on the ballot, Mahoning Valley elections officials expect turnout for this general election to be the lowest since 2007.
Turnout is almost always higher in even-numbered general elections, particularly presidential years, elections officials say. Even-year election years include state, county and congressional races, which attract more voters than local races in odd-numbered election years.
But because of Senate Bill 5, a successful statewide initiative in 2011 to overturn a state law restricting some collective-bargaining rights for public employees, and approval in 2009 of a state constitutional amendment to legalize Las Vegas-style gambling casinos, turnout in those years in the Valley wasn’t too bad.
In 2011, turnout in Mahoning County was 44 percent, and 49 percent in both Trumbull and Columbiana counties. In 2009, turnout in Mahoning was 41 percent, 44 percent in Trumbull, and 42 percent in Columbiana.
Without a statewide ballot issue, turnout in the 2007 general election was 31 percent in Mahoning, 32 percent in Trumbull, and 38 percent in Columbiana. [A proposed statewide issue that year to invalidate a law regulating strip clubs was disqualified for not having enough valid signatures.]
In comparison, turnout for last year’s presidential election was 72 percent in Mahoning, 68 percent in Trumbull and 70 percent in Columbiana.
Valley boards of elections directors aren’t optimistic about this election.
“Turnout won’t be great,” said Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning County’s board of elections director, adding it should be 35 to 40 percent.
It would be lower if it weren’t for a contested Youngstown mayoral election, Kale-Pesta said. Buy if early voting is a factor, the mayor’s race may not attract many voters, she said.
There were 4,939 early voters in Youngstown in 2011. It’s about half that for this election.
The county is likely to have about 9,000 early voters for this election, a little more than half of those who cast ballots early in 2011.
“I expected more early voters, particularly in Youngstown,” Kale-Pesta said.
The only countywide issue in Mahoning is a renewal for the mental health board, which isn’t driving turnout, she said.
There are 166,020 registered voters in Mahoning County, including 42,864 in Youngstown.
Turnout in Trumbull County for this election is expected to be about 30 percent, said Kelly Pallante, its board of elections director.
There were 10,867 early voters in 2011, and will probably be about 4,000 this year, she said.
“There are no state issues and no county issues; there’s not a lot on the ballot,” Pallante said. “We had originally thought we’d have 5,000 early ballots. We’re not making that.”
There are 144,633 registered voters in Trumbull County.
Trumbull is the only board of elections among the three in the Valley with early in-person voting on Monday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Turnout in Columbiana County is expected to be 35 to 40 percent, said Adam Booth, its elections director.
Early voting is very light in the county, about 1,300 compared with about 3,200 in 2011, he said.
“Absentees are low and with the absence of state or countywide issues, turnout will be lower” than previous years, Booth said.
There are 65,046 registered voters in Columbiana County.