About 6,500 Mahoning County voters have requested absentee ballots to vote by mail
By David Skolnick
Nearly 6,500 Mahoning County voters already have requested absentee ballots to vote by mail – considerably more than the amount sought during the 2012 presidential election at this point.
The board of elections had processed 3,979 absentee ballot applications as of Wednesday and had another 2,500 at its office that day waiting to be opened, said Director Joyce Kale-Pesta. In comparison, the board processed 2,461 absentee requests in 2012 as of Sept. 14 of that year, said Chris Rakocy, its information technology manager.
“We’re way ahead of the curve on early voting compared to 2012,” Kale-Pesta said. “That’s a considerable amount of requests. We’re already getting a lot of calls about in-office voting.”
The board should get significantly more absentee requests in the coming days, she said, because the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office mailed absentee ballot applications to registered voters statewide about a week ago.
In 2012, 44,319 Mahoning County residents voted early with 30,852 by mail and 13,467 in person at the board office on Oak Hill Avenue. The secretary of state sent absentee ballot applications that year.
In 2008, when no application letters were sent, there were 42,574 early voters in Mahoning County with 26,686 by mail and 15,888 in person at the board.
As of Wednesday, there are 164,467 registered voters in Mahoning County, Rakocy said.
Oct. 11 is the last day to register to vote for those not currently registered.
Oct. 12 is the first day for early in-person voting and the first day boards of elections can mail absentee ballots.
In 2012, the final count of registered voters was 170,079.
Democratic and Republican officials expect high turnout for the election, driven by the presidential race.
“If it’s like the Canfield Fair, it’s going to be over the top. I’ve never seen that many people” visit the Republican Party’s tent, said Tracey Winbush, county GOP vice chairwoman and a board of elections member. “It was nonstop from morning to night getting people signed up to register to vote and giving them early voting information.”
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras, the board of elections’ vice chairman, said, “Turnout will be higher. The numbers are considerably up from four years ago. I expect that to continue, and I expect us to win. We’re working hard with phone banks and canvassing every night.”
Turnout in the 2012 general election in the county was 72.2 percent.
Mahoning County, which is heavily Democratic, received national attention because of a large crossover of Democrats voting in the Republican primary in March.
Though Donald Trump lost the state’s primary to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Trump, the party’s presidential nominee, won Mahoning County by 13 percentage points. It was the most populous county in the state to go for Trump. Kasich won the state by 11 percentage points.
During that primary, 6,171 registered Democrats crossed party lines to vote in the Republican race in comparison to 154 Republicans switching party affiliation.
Also in the county, 21,801 voters without party affiliation voted Republican in that primary and 20,208 unaffiliated voters cast ballots in the Democratic primary.