What Races Will Drive Voter Turnout In Ohio?

Oct 11, 2018

Early voting is now underway in Ohio, which has seen strong Republican wins in the last two midterm election cycles. But many are wondering about the impact of an increase in registered voters in a midterm year that looks good nationwide for Democrats.

Cathy Adamescue of Columbus is planning a trip next month, so she decided to get voting out of the way early.

“I probably could have voted on voting day, but I wasn’t really sure, and I did not want to miss an opportunity to vote,” she said.

There are more than 8 million registered Ohio voters, the fourth largest total in state history. But elections expert Mike Dawson said turnout – early and through election day – is what’s important.

“If you increase your voter turnout percent by 10 percent, that would be an additional 800,000 voters," he said.

Democrats did well statewide in 2006, with 53 percent turnout. Then Republicans swept state offices in 2010, when there were more registered voters but turnout was just under 50 percent. Turnout dropped by 10 points in 2014.

This year, Ohioans are voting for every statewide office – including governor, treasurer, secretary of state, auditor, and state Supreme Court – as well as for U.S. Senate race, U.S. House and the Ohio General Assembly.

There’s also one statewide ballot proposal, Issue 1, which would reform drug sentencing laws and fund drug rehabilitation. Kyle Kondik, managing editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia, says Issue 1 has become a big factor in the gubernatorial race. 

Republican Mike DeWine is against Issue 1 while Democrat Rich Cordray is for it, but when it comes to encouraging people to get out and vote, Kondik is less convinced.

“I don’t know if these statewide ballot issues drive turnout as much as commonly believed,” Kondik says.

Instead, Kondik says party turnout might be driven by the U.S. Senate race, which pits Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown against Republican Rep. Jim Renacci. Brown is currently polling in the double digits above Renacci.