Officials: Voting by mail in Butler County could increase as soon as this election

With no statewide issues on ballot, turnout harder to predict, local elections official says.

Exactly how many people will vote early will be difficult to predict amid the nearly two-year-old COVID-19 pandemic, but Butler County election officials believe turnout could be driven by vote-by-mail ballots.

More than 700 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out Tuesday morning to Butler County voters, the first day of early voting for the Nov. 2 election. And 100 people voted Tuesday at the elections office on Princeton Road in Hamilton.

Compared to Day 1 of early voting in the 2019 general election, Tuesday saw nearly twice the number of in-office votes cast, and 161 more requested vote-by-mail ballots sent out. Predicting voter turnout for this election, however, won’t be easy, at least for now, said Butler County Board of Elections Deputy Director Eric Corbin.

Some voters came to cast their ballots at the Butler County Board of Elections on election day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Some voters came to cast their ballots at the Butler County Board of Elections on election day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

“It’s definitely going to be harder to predict,” he said. “One thing that we do expect to see ― if it’s not this general election it’ll be likely in the 2022 general election ― is more people voting by mail than what our average has been over the past several years,” he said.

It’s more difficult because there are no statewide issues on this ballot, which usually drives turnout down, but a record number of people voted by mail in 2020 because they “found out how easy it was,” Corbin said.

Historically, local-year elections ― odd-numbered years when village and city councils, township elected offices, and school boards are up for election ― without statewide ballot measures are low voter-turnout elections.

In 2019, 19.1% of Butler County’s voters participated with no statewide measures. Voter turnout was higher in 2017 (25.3%) with two statewide measures, and it was more than doubled in 2015 (40.61%) with three statewide measures, including the legalization effort for recreational marijuana.

Early voting and voting by mail experienced record highs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 52,200 votes were cast by mail, and more than 112,100 early ballots were cast in November 2020.

Some voters came to cast their ballots at the Butler County Board of Elections on election day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
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Some voters came to cast their ballots at the Butler County Board of Elections on election day Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Also, with no mask mandate, that’s another variable that makes it hard to forecast an expected voter turnout percentage, Corbin said. There are more than 255,000 registered Butler County voters.

Early voting is open every weekday at the Butler County Board of Elections, 1802 Princeton Road, until Nov. 1.

Weekend voting will be Oct. 30 and 31. To request a vote-by-mail ballot, visit VoteOhio.gov. All vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 1, or hand-delivered to the board of elections office by 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2.

A long line forms on the last day of early voting at the Butler County Board of Elections Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
A long line forms on the last day of early voting at the Butler County Board of Elections Monday, Nov. 2, 2020 in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham


FACTS & FIGURES

Voting totals are often driven by the election year ― local office years versus federal and statewide office years ― and what’s on the ballot. Statewide ballot measures often increase voter turnout, especially in odd-year elections when voters decide village and city council, township office, and school board races. Here’s the percent of early voters that voted by mail:

2020*: 46.6% (52,198 votes by mail)

2019*: 29.9% (1,757 votes by mail)

2018: 54% (21,749 votes by mail)

2017: 53.5% (29,983 votes by mail)

2016*: 50.7% (5,057 votes by mail)

*Denotes no statewide ballot measures were on the ballot

SOURCE: Butler County Board of Elections

EARLY VOTING HOURS

Now through Oct. 8: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Oct. 12-15: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Oct. 18-22: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Oct. 25-29: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

Oct. 30: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Oct. 31: 1-5 p.m.

Nov. 1: 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

SOURCE: Ohio Secretary of State