Are Butler County’s politics growing bluer?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

How to vote on Butler County's new voting machines

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

GOP leader says party will 'win in impressive numbers,' but Democrats say expect a blue wave in Butler County.

Butler County has traditionally been a staunch Republican county for decades, but in recent years Democrats say they have been closing in on the Grand Old Party.

For the first time since 2014, there are fewer than 50,000 registered Republicans in the county, and the difference between registered Democrats and Republicans is less than 2-to-1 heading into the Nov. 3 general election. However, the leaders of the county’s two major political parties view the data differently.

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Butler County GOP Executive Chairman Todd Hall said the numbers aren’t reflective of how voters will cast ballots in November.

“It is obvious how our county voters feel politically by how they vote in the general elections,” said Hall. “Republicans still win in impressive numbers and Butler County remains strongly conservative.”

The county’s Democratic Party leader, Brian Hester, said the GOP in Butler County has seen its political grip weaken and “nothing has driven people away from them and towards us more than their ticket this fall.”

“We are quickly approaching the tipping point,” said Hester, Butler County Democratic Party’s executive chairman. “Butler County Democrats will continue to be patient and work hard demonstrating to voters how our candidates offer a fresh change of focusing on solving our problems as opposed to the good ol’ boys’ club and its failed politics of division of the past.”

But as to why the number of registered Butler County Republicans dropped by 30,000 from 2018 to 2020 is simple: they didn’t vote in the past two partisan primaries, according to the Ohio Secretary of State. If a voter votes an issues-only ballot and/or does not vote in consecutive partisan primaries, they are switched to a “no party status.”

According to state election laws, a person declares their party affiliation in the primary, and the removal of the designation can still occur if a voter casts a ballot in every November election.

While there is a correlation between the drop in registered Republicans to “no party” registered voters, it’s not a certainty it’s because of voters casting an issues-only or skipping a partisan primary, according to elections officials. Butler County Republicans dropped 30,883 from 2018 to 2020, but the “no party” status only increase by 29,055 registered voters, and this would also apply to Democrats who skipped or voted issues-only in recent primaries.

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There are 21,808 registered Democrats in Butler County, a decrease of 4,021 from 2018.

Hester still contends Butler County is growing bluer with every election.

“Prior to the delay of the primary, more voters had cast a Democratic ballot than a Republican one,” he said. “(Republicans) spent tons of money on the primary. (Democrats) didn’t really spend a penny.”

As of March 16, the day prior to the original date of the 2020 primary election, Republicans and Democrats were neck-in-neck with early ballots cast. Democrats led by a handful of ballots cast, 6,058 to 6,034, according to election data.

“While our opposition is heavily pushing the idea of mail-in elections, many Republicans feel that the truest and safest voting procedure remains in-person voting,” said Hall. “Rest assured our local Republicans will come to the polls this election.”

Hester said the data shows “a blue wave” in Butler County ”who can’t wait to vote a Democratic ballot this fall.” A blue wave had been predicted in past elections but never crested in Butler County.

Two years ago, Republicans had a near 2-to-1 advantage in early voting with 1,500 Republicans casting an early ballot in the 2018 primary election while Democrats cast just more than 800. In the last presidential primary in 2016, Republicans showed up early by a nearly 3-to-1 margin, casting nearly 3,000 early votes while Democrats cast almost 1,200.

Voter registration for the 2020 general election ends on Oct. 5, and early voting starts on Oct. 6. To register to vote, update your voter registration or request an early ballot, visit elections.bcohio.gov.

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