Early voter turnout low in local counties

Elections officials cite lack of issues, contested races.

SPRINGFIELD — Turnout for early voting is the lowest in Clark and Champaign counties since 2007.

Election officials believe low turnout is a reflection of the lack statewide issues on the ballot and few contested races and local issues.

Area residents could begin voting Jan. 31 for the March 6 primary. As of Tuesday, 1,213 of Clark County’s 88,644 registered voters had cast ballots. That prompted Director Mark Oster to estimate that just more than 2,000 would likely vote before early voting ends March 2.

“Last November we had 5,000 at this point. Four years ago we had Hillary (Clinton) and (Barack) Obama. But 1,000 is really low. It’s the lowest I’ve seen it,” said Oster, who has been director since 2007.

Early voter turnout in Champaign County is low, too, with only 400 of the county’s 26,888 registered voters casting ballots so far. In 2011, more than 1,700 voters cast ballots early, compared to more than 1,600 in 2008 and more than 1,000 in 2010.

Champaign County Board of Elections Director Kathy Meyer blamed the low turnout on a lackluster races and issues on the ballot.

“There are no school issues. That’s what usually brings people out. There are no Democrats running, and there are only a couple contested races on the Republican side,” Meyer said.

Matt McClellan, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, said his office has heard other boards of elections around the state are also seeing low voter turnout.

Oster noted the absence of TV political advertising, the lack of statewide issues and the low number of local issues.

He also said the low early voter turnout in the primary indicates few will show up to the polls in March.

“The general rule is that whatever goes on in early voting carries over to Election Day,” Oster said.