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Primary election turnout hits lowest mark in 60 years

Turnout in Tuesday’s primary was poor in the Mahoning Valley, but better than it was statewide.

The state’s turnout for Tuesday, which was Ohio’s second primary in three months, was 7.93 percent. It had the lowest turnout of a statewide primary in at least 60 years.

Trumbull County’s turnout was 11.62 percent, while Mahoning was 9.08 percent and Columbiana was 10.32 percent.

The lowest turnout in the state was in Lawrence County at 4.13 percent, while the highest turnout was in Auglaize County at 18.13 percent. They are two of the least-populated counties in the state.

The numbers for Tuesday were significant declines from the May 3 primary.

The state’s turnout for May 3 was 20.63 percent. In Trumbull, it was 25.83 percent. It was 23.24 percent in Mahoning and 22.19 percent in Columbiana.

CONFUSION

The reasons for the poor turnout Tuesday? Largely, voters were confused by two primaries, and there were a lack of candidates in competitive races on that ballot, said Stephanie Penrose and Tom McCabe, the directors of the Trumbull and Mahoning counties boards of elections, respectively.

“A lot of people I spoke to simply didn’t understand this was a second primary,” Penrose said. “Some thought the May primary didn’t count, and this was replacing it. I had to explain it was stuff that wasn’t on the May primary. I can see that it’s hard to understand the workings of it.”

Others just weren’t interested in voting for state legislative and state central committee member candidates, she said.

“No one knew what to expect with this primary except that it would be low turnout,” McCabe said. “It was just a matter of how low. Leading up to the election, people didn’t know there was a primary, and others said they wouldn’t vote because there was so little to vote on.”

IT WAS COSTLY

The second statewide primary cost about $20 million to $25 million to hold.

The primary for state legislative candidates — and state central committee members — initially was scheduled for May 3, but the Ohio Supreme Court ruled five times that maps approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission were unconstitutional because they unfairly favored Republicans. That caused the primary to be delayed.

A federal court announced April 20 it planned to implement the third set of maps, rejected by the state court, no later than May 28 if the state couldn’t approve constitutional one. That left no incentive for the redistricting commission members to make changes. The federal court imposed the third set of maps May 27 and put them in effect for only this election.

The state central committee districts are the same as the state Senate districts resulting in a delay for the former seats, too.

In Trumbull County, no Democrat ran in the 65th House race and the state central committee man and woman seats were uncontested. The only contested race was for the 64th House.

On the Republican side, there was an uncontested 64th House primary, a contested primary for the 65th House seat, four candidates for state central committeeman and three for state central committeewoman.

In Mahoning County, the only contested Democratic primary was for the 59th House seat, and the only contested Republican primary was for state central committeeman.

The uncontested Democratic primaries were for the 58th House, the 33rd Senate and state central committee man and woman.

The Republicans didn’t field a candidate for the 59th House seat and had uncontested races for the 58th House, 33rd Senate and state central committeewoman.

NOVEMBER

In some parts of both counties, polling locations were open, but Democrats did not vote in any contested races.

“In Canfield, a guy voted with a Democratic ballot and he crumpled up his ballot and threw it away because he wasted his time coming out,” McCabe said. “Half of the county on the Democratic side had nothing to vote on. On the Republican side, most people don’t know what the state central committeeman does nor do they care. There just was not much for the people to vote for.”

McCabe is a former Republican state central committeeman.

McCabe added: “We’re going to move on and forget this (second primary) ever happened. We’ll get ready for the November ballot. It’s the major one, and we have to turn around and get ready for it.”

A higher percentage of blank ballots was submitted in Mahoning and Trumbull for this election than most others, the directors said.

There were 47 blank ballots in Trumbull and 50 in Mahoning.

“That seems high for blank ballots for an election with such low turnout,” Penrose said of the 47 in her county. “At the early voting place, the machine kicks out ballots that are blank and asks people if they want to still submit it. Others mailed in blank ballots. People took the time to mail in a blank ballot. They wanted credit for voting in the primary even though they didn’t vote for anyone. If you don’t know anyone on the ballot or you don’t give courtesy votes (to unopposed candidates) you turn in a blank ballot.”

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