Local election officials expect poor turnout for this election
By David Skolnick
Though there are some hotly contested races, directors of county boards of elections in the Mahoning Valley expect poor voter turnout for Tuesday’s election.
One positive note is early-voting running a little higher than originally expected, which has led Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, to increase her predicted turnout from just a month ago. In early October, she expected turnout for this election to be 17 percent to 18 percent. She now predicts turnout at 20 percent to 25 percent.
It’s not much and would be the lowest turnout in the county for a general election in at least 15 years and probably longer. The lowest turnout since 2000 was 29.5 percent in 2013.
“It should be heavy in Youngstown and Struthers, but I don’t see it everywhere else,” Kale-Pesta said. “I’m hoping we’ll reach 20-25 percent. We were real slow in the beginning of early voting, but we’ve picked up somewhat.”
Races that will attract turnout in this election, she said, are Youngstown mayor and municipal court judge, and the municipal court judicial race in Struthers. Also, Kale-Pesta said, the Austintown school board race may attract voters in that school district.
“I don’t see the trustee races drawing much turnout” anywhere, she said.
Turnout in Mahoning County in the 2015 general election was 44 percent, largely because of a statewide issue to legalize marijuana. That issue was defeated.
There are two statewide issues on this ballot.
State Issue 1, known as Marsy’s Law, specifies the rights of crime victims and their families.
State Issue 2 would require the state to pay the same price or less for prescription drugs for those on state programs such as Medicaid as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays.
“Everybody is so confused about State Issue 2, and it’s not bringing people out to vote,” Kale-Pesta said. “Issue 1 is not attracting any interest.”
Turnout in Trumbull County will be about 23 percent to 25 percent, said Stephanie Penrose, its board of elections director.
In 2013, the county’s voter turnout was 25 percent. It was 47 percent in 2015.
“Two years ago was such an odd election for an off-year because of the marijuana-legalization issue,” Penrose said. “Issue 2 isn’t as hot an issue as marijuana was.”
Among local issues and races, the hot ones are in Niles with an additional school levy and the race for Niles Municipal Court judge, she said. Also, voters in Liberty typically come out in solid numbers and the township has races for trustee and school board, she added.
In Columbiana County, early voting is “a little heavier than what I first thought,” said Adam Booth, its board of elections director. But it’s not enough for him to change his prediction from last month of 30 percent to 35 percent turnout.
Turnout in the county in 2013 was 28 percent. It was 48 percent two years ago.
Booth said State Issue 2 is driving turnout in Columbiana County. A few local issues could help bring more voters to the polls, he said.
Polling locations throughout Ohio on Tuesday are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
There is still time to vote early at the board of elections offices.
Early voting hours today are 1 to 5 p.m. and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.