Butler County election had more voters than in a typical odd-year

Butler County’s election on Tuesday had a few upset victories, but in a low-turnout election it’s not surprising, according to one political expert.

Miami University Regionals political scientist John Forren said it’s typical that off-year elections do see the lowest turnouts as “the people who do show up to vote are not particularly representative of the population overall.”

“Among other things, it’s the most politically active — and often the most ideologically committed — people who show up in off-year elections,” said the chair of Miami Hamilton’s Justice & Community Studies department.

According to unofficial Butler County Board of Elections results, more than 50,000 registered voters out of more than 253,500 in the county participated in Tuesday’s general election, either on Election Day or in the 28 days of early voting. That equates to a 19.79% voter turnout, which will increase as late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots postmarked by Nov. 1 are received and provisional ballots are counted during the official run.

Compared to the last odd-year election, more people participated in Tuesday’s election. During this election cycle, more than 2,700 people participated than they did two years ago, and there were nearly 3,000 more votes cast ahead of Election Day during early voting, which includes vote-by-mail.

“It is interesting to see the increased early voting turnout and I think some of that increase can be contributed to the pandemic which caused a lot of people to vote early for the first time in 2020,” said Butler County Deputy Director Eric Corbin. “We will need to plan for that number to increase so we will be ready for higher volumes in future elections of both mail and in-person early voting.”

Corbin said the board developed new processes last year due to the high volume of early ballots that had to be processed by hand, and those processes were refined in this year’s lower-turnout election. In 2022, Ohio voters will decide on a few major races, including for governor and U.S. Senate, as well as all of Ohio’s congressional seats.

Forren said it’s difficult to draw any strong conclusions from Tuesday’s results, especially in the Edgewood and Lakota school board races. Both races had several challengers, and each will see two new faces and an incumbent sworn to their boards come January.

“We tend to overread just how big the gaps are in these kinds of elections between the ‘winners’ and the ‘losers,’” Forren said.

In Lakota, where unofficially more than 49,000 votes were cast, less than 1,000 votes separated the top vote-getter and fifth place ― a 1.25% difference. Edgewood wasn’t as close in percentages (first and fifth were separated by more than 10%) but there were nearly 6,500 votes cast for the school board race and first and fifth place were separated by fewer than 670 votes.

In both races, the top three vote-getters won a seat on the respective school boards, and each race returned an incumbent to the board. Because the vote totals were close, Forren said he didn’t see clear evidence of a popular mandate for policy change.

“It will be interesting to see how the winners of the election interpret their wins,” he said.

Vote totals are expected to change, but wouldn’t overturn any Election Day results. Countywide there were 354 provisional ballots cast. The provisional ballots, and any late-arriving vote-by-mail ballots ― there were 657 unreturned vote-by-mail ballots as of Wednesday ― will be counted on Nov. 15 during the official run of the election.


BY THE NUMBERS

Voter turnout: 19.79%

Registered voters: 253,519

Ballots cast: 50,169

Election Day ballots cast: 41,362

SOURCE: Butler County Board of Elections

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