Interest in local races, early voting brings in more absentee ballots this year
The Secretary of State's office reported a jump in early ballots returned this year over 2019, the most recent comparable election year.
There are no federal or statewide offices or issues on this year’s ballot - odd year elections are primarily for local races and issues and judicial candidates. So turnout is expected to be lower. But Ohio voters did turn in more early ballots this year than the last odd-year vote two years ago.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose said 18% more early ballots came in this year than in 2019. That may be due to two Congressional special elections - one in Cleveland and one in central Ohio, hotly contested school board races or some local issues – or people’s experiences with pandemic absentee voting in 2020. The state hit an all-time record for early voting last year.
“That 18% increase, I think, is partly to do with the fact that people are excited about local elections right now and also that people that tried it for the first time last year realized that voting early, voting absentee is a secure and convenient way to get it done," LaRose said.
LaRose supports a bill from fellow Republicans that would ban in-person voting the day before an election and limit secure ballot drop boxes, but opposes another more conservative Republican bill to ban all drop boxes and cut 28 days of early voting to 13 and then later to six days.
Democrats oppose both bills.
Ohio was short 17,000 poll workers just a few weeks before election day. But the Secretary of State’s office says a statewide recruitment effort paid off, and county boards are reporting enough poll workers to run today’s election.
Some of the 40,000 poll workers at voting sites are required by county board of elections to wear masks. But no voter is required to wear one.
However, LaRose said poll workers are prepared for any conflicts over masks – or anything else.
“People show up wearing their favorite candidates hat or T-shirt or whatever else - they may have to deal with that situation. We've trained our coworkers in de-escalation," LaRose said. "We've consulted with law enforcement because they know how to do this. We put videos together for our poll workers.”
Voters in communities with mask mandates who don’t have or want to wear masks can vote curbside, but LaRose said they won’t be banned from voting inside and will be able to come in and vote if they want.