Election didn’t excite voters

On the side

Garrison fundraiser: U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer is having a fundraiser today in Columbus for Jennifer Garrison of Marietta, who is running in the 2014 Democratic primary for the 6th Congressional District seat. The event, outside the congressional district, is to raise much-needed money for what will likely be an expensive race.

The Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call election race ratings has the 6th District “leaning Republican.” The seat is held by two-term incumbent Bill Johnson, a Republican from Marietta.

Stu Rothenberg, publisher of the report and an expert political handicapper, posted an article earlier this week on Roll Call’s website about Garrison’s position on same-sex marriage. Rotherberg wrote that Garrison was asked about her “evolution on gay marriage” and didn’t directly answer the question during a recent interview with Roll Call. He called her answer an “odd response” while pointing out she told me in mid-July that she supports gay marriage.

Turnout for this past election was even worse than the low — and obviously over-optimistic — predictions from directors at boards of elections in the Mahoning Valley.

There wasn’t much going on in Trumbull County, which had 24.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots, or Columbiana County with 28.1 percent turnout.

There were competitive races in townships and cities in Mahoning County, but only 29.3 percent of those registered bothered to vote.

This election had the lowest turnout since 2007.

City turnout

In Youngstown, where there were races for mayor, city council president, the school board, and two charter amendments — one that called for fracking to be banned and the other to eliminate the city’s park and recreation commission — turnout was below the county number.

This isn’t a new problem. Youngstown’s turnout percentage for years has been typically below the county’s.

What that means is less political clout for the city — which reflects on the county — on the national level.

And the poor turnout was during an election with a lot at stake.

Only 10,651 of the city’s 42,864 registered voters voted in the mayor’s race. That’s only 24.8 percent.

As has been the case for years when there is a credible white candidate and a credible black candidate in a citywide race the predominately white wards vote for the white candidate and the predominately black wards vote for the black candidate.

Democrat John McNally IV, who is white, did incredibly well in the 4th Ward, which is not only a predominately white area on the city’s West Side, but also one with a lot of voters.

DeMaine Kitchen, who is black and ran as an independent, did great in the predominately black 1st Ward and was solid in the 6th, but those two wards have the least number of registered voters among the seven wards and had the two lowest turnouts for this election.

(Read my Sunday article to get an analysis of a ward-by-ward breakdown for this race.)

Despite McNally’s strong showing among white voters and Kitchen’s among black voters, McNally won by 11.46 percentage points. In raw numbers, we’re only talking about 1,221 votes.

What’s interesting is there wasn’t a drop-off in the other Youngstown ballot items: 10,555 voted in the city council president race, 10,521 for the park and recreation issue, and 10,506 for the anti-fracking issue, even though the latter’s language took up about a page and a half of ballot space.

So why such low numbers in Youngstown?

Population loss

The city’s continuing population loss obviously drives down the total number of voters. Among those who are left, there are more people living in poverty and/or transient who aren’t interested in voting.

There are a lot of people who register to vote because it’s relatively easy, but don’t understand it’s not that challenging to actually vote. You don’t even have to leave your house.

Because of various controversies, investigations, over-the-top racial claims and conspiracy theories by some in the black community, and even one mayoral candidate in jail, some voters decided to stay at home.

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