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Low expectations for primary

What happens when you have an election using a voting method many people have never used before in the midst of a pandemic?

We’re going to find out Tuesday, though complete results for the primary won’t be certified for about another month.

It certainly looks like voters will stay away during this primary because COVID-19 has them worried about other things. Also, without contested presidential races for either the Democrats or the Republicans, the process for getting a ballot doesn’t seem worth it to many people. Those who normally go to polling locations to cast ballots don’t have that opportunity during this primary and the rush job to go to a virtually all mail system hasn’t helped.

Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, canceled the March 17 in-person primary late the night before — at the request of Gov. Mike DeWine — because of a public health concern about the COVID-19 pandemic.

DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose called for a June 2 primary with mail voting extended and plans for in-person voting that day. But the state Legislature decided that date was too late and voted for a bill with a primary for this Tuesday with no in-person voting except for those with qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and those without access to the postal system, primarily the homeless.

Any hope for in-person voting on June 2 is way too optimistic. I’m certain DeWine would agree with that assessment now. Not a lot of people would head to polling locations at that time even if the pandemic slows down. The risk is too great.

Also, in hindsight, it wasn’t a great decision to move up this primary to Tuesday.

I understand why it was done, but the Legislature could have given county boards of elections more time to organize and LaRose could have acted quicker to provide authorization to those boards to start mailing back absentee ballot requests.

Interest in this primary, however, wasn’t going to be any greater in another month or so than it is now.

We could see near-record low turnout for a presidential primary statewide. The lowest in recent memory was 2012 with statewide turnout at 25.52 percent. In Mahoning County during that primary, turnout was 29.62 percent. It was 24.74 percent in Trumbull County. In the 2012 primary, then-President Barack Obama ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination and six Republican presidential candidates were on the ballot.

During this primary, the candidates at the top of the ticket for both parties are decided. President Donald Trump is the only Republican on the ballot. While there are several names on the Democratic side, all of them except Joe Biden have withdrawn as candidates. Like the cheese, the former vice president stands alone.

In Mahoning County, there are a few local levies and issues, and Republican primaries for the 13th and 6th Congressional districts. There are no other contested races on the ballot. There is no reason for Democrats to vote in Mahoning County unless they have a local levy or liquor option to consider or support an unopposed candidate so much that they need to vote for that person.

In Trumbull County, there are a number of contested Republican and Democratic primaries and 10 tax levies.

With campaigning severely reduced because of the postponed primary and the pandemic, candidates and those backing issues on the ballot are having a hard time getting the attention of voters.

Turnout will be better in Trumbull than in Mahoning, but neither is going to be impressive.

I’m not going out on a limb with the contention that turnout in Mahoning will be worse than the 2012 primary. It won’t be as terrible in Trumbull County because of the county races and the amount of tax issues.

The end result is we’re just not going to see a lot of people making the effort to vote in this primary.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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