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Historic low voter turnout looms despite importance of the election


Published: Fri, October 27, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

By David Skolnick (Contact)


On the side

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, introduced legislation to improve the ability of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to pursue “bad actors” for distribution of prescription opioids. The legislation would repeal provisions of a law that Ryan says hampers DEA’s efforts to stop the delivery of opioids and other medications to suspicious distributors.

“It is clear that the [law] has significantly and adversely affected the federal government’s ability to crack down on opioid distributors that are endangering communities across the country,” Ryan said. “I am proud to introduce this legislation ... which would repeal provisions of the legislation and restore the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to prohibit opioid manufacturers from flooding communities suffering from addiction with more pills.”

I certainly don’t expect turnout for this election to rival the presidential one or almost any other election in recent years.

But if county board of elections directors in the Mahoning Valley are correct with their predictions, we could see historic low turnout this year.

The lowest turnout I found over the past 15 years for the Valley wasn’t that long ago.

In 2013, only 29.5 percent of registered voters casting ballots in Mahoning County. It was even worse in Columbiana County with 28 percent turnout and 24.5 percent in Trumbull County.

The predictions for turnout by board directors for this election are 17 percent to 18 percent in Mahoning County, and 20 percent to 25 percent in Trumbull County.

The lone bright spot – if you can call it that – is Columbiana County where turnout is predicted to be between 30 percent and 35 percent.

Statewide issues usually bring more people out to vote during odd-year elections.

But apparently that’s not going to be the case in the Valley this year.

During the low-turnout election of 2013, there wasn’t a statewide ballot initiative.

There are two statewide issues on the Nov. 7 ballot.

One proposal would require the state to pay the same price or less for prescription drugs as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for those on state programs such as Medicaid, and the other is known as Marsy’s Law that specifies the rights of crime victims and their families.

While several million dollars have been spent on the prescription drug issue, it doesn’t look like it’s going to generate the interest of Valley voters as previous statewide issues. That could change as the secretary of state’s office noted Wednesday that requests for absentee ballots in Ohio are up this year compared to 2015.

A failed proposal in 2015 to legalize marijuana and the successful effort to overturn a bill in 2011 to restrict collective-bargaining for public employees drove voters to the polls in odd-year elections.

The marijuana-legalization proposal two years ago resulted in decent turnout in the Valley.

It was 44 percent in Mahoning, 47 percent in Trumbull and 48 in Columbiana.

The “SB5” recall of 2011 saw turnout of 44.5 percent in Mahoning, 48 percent in Trumbull and 49 percent in Columbiana.

While the president and statewide races are important, what likely impacts people the most is local elections for mayor, city and village councils, school boards, township trustees along with community and county tax levies.

As Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County Board of Elections director, told me a few weeks ago: “This election directly affects our day-to-day life, and people don’t come out to vote as much as for president or even governor. These are our local taxes and officeholders, and people don’t seem to be interested.”

I’m a traditionalist and vote on Election Day at my polling location. I’m sure there are plenty of others reading this who do the same.

But you can vote now if you don’t think you’ve got the time to do so Nov. 7.

You can vote during early-voting hours at county boards of elections or request a ballot and vote by mail.

Early-voting hours next Monday to Friday are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

On Nov. 4, the Saturday before the election, in-person voting hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Nov. 5, the Sunday before the election, early-voting hours are 1 to 5 p.m.

The last day for early voting is Nov. 6 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Mahoning County Board of Elections is in Oakhill Renaissance Place, 345 Oak Hill Ave. in Youngstown. You can request a ballot by calling 330-783-2474 or go to the board’s website – vote.mahoningcountyoh.gov – and click on “request an absentee ballot.”

Trumbull’s board is at 2947 Youngstown Road SE in Warren. You can request a ballot by calling 330-369-4050 or go to its website – www.boe.co.trumbull.oh.us – and click on “absentee.”

Columbiana County’s board office is at 7989 Dickey Drive in Lisbon. You can request an absentee ballot by calling 330-424-1448 or go to the board’s website – columbianaboe.org – check on “elections” and then “absentee voting.”

It’s easy to do something so important.


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