Early turnout for Ohio’s election on abortion and marijuana issues outpaces early vote in August

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — County boards of elections closed their early voting centers after the only weekend of voting  to prepare for the Ohio Election Day on Tuesday, when voters will decide a constitutional amendment on abortion and reproductive rights and a law on legalizing recreational marijuana. And early turnout has outpaced the number of voters who cast early ballots in the August special election.

Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office reports the total ballots cast by mail, in person and dropped off at boards of elections by Sunday added up to 864,525. But there are 119,764 outstanding absentee ballots that were requested but have not been dropped off at county boards of elections, so that early voting total will go higher.

757,653 early ballots were counted in the entire early voting period in the Aug. 8 special election, when voters rejected a proposal to make it harder to amend Ohio’s constitution. The total of early voting so far in the November election is a 14% increase over the early votes counted in August.

Voters line up in Columbus at Franklin County's early voting center on the first day of early in-person voting for the August special election.
Voters line up in Columbus at Franklin County’s early voting center on the first day of early in-person voting for the August special election. [Daniel Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]

Unaffiliated voters leading turnout increase for the Ohio election

The higher turnout is being led by independent voters. Turnout is up in the 72 counties for which there is publicly available information online. There isn’t similar information for the other 16 counties.

In these 72 counties so far, 783,155 early votes were cast compared to 638,985 early votes in August, an increase of 144,170. Of that increase, 32,536 are Republican voters, a 23% increase over August. The number of Democratic voters in these 72 counties declined 6,294, or -4%. The number of unaffiliated voters increased by 116,105 over August, which is 81% of the total increase.

Overall turnout for the Aug. 8 election, on just that single statewide issue, was 39.03%.

A little over 40% turnout in comparable elections

By comparison to other odd-year general elections in Ohio, there were three issues in November 2015: the legislative redistricting amendment, an amendment to prevent monopolies in the Ohio constitution, and an amendment legalizing recreational marijuana and creating a system to guarantee rights to grow it. Turnout that fall was 43.24%, with the first issue passing overwhelmingly, the second passing with a slight majority and the third soundly rejected.

In 2011, there were also three issues on the ballot: raising the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75, a proposal to keep the collective bargaining law known as Senate Bill 5, and an amendment to exempt Ohioans from health care mandates. Turnout that fall was 47.06%. The first two issues failed by nearly 2-1, and the third passed by almost the same margin.