Virtual Statehouse debate featuring Butler County candidates set for Tuesday: What to know

Voters will need to tune in online to watch candidate debates in two of the area races for office this November.

Miami University, the League of Women Voters and the Journal-News are partnering to present online debates. The 4th Ohio Senate District and the 53rd Ohio House District events have been set.

The Senate debate between Ohio Rep. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., Democrat Kathy Wyenandt, of Liberty Twp., and write-in candidate Kent Keller Sr., a Republican from Middletown, will be presented via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

To watch Tuesday’s debate, register at Debates will be recorded and posted online so voters can watch, or re-watch, ahead of casting their ballot. Voter registration ends on Oct. 5 and early voting begins Oct. 6.

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Two weeks later, Madison Twp. Trustee Thomas Hall, a Republican, and Middletown School Board member Michelle Novak, a Democrat, will debate the open 53rd Ohio House District seat. Details on how to watch that debate will be released closer to the Oct. 6 debate date, which is also the first day of early voting in Ohio.

The three organizations have reached out to candidates in the 52nd and 54th Ohio House districts, and the 8th Congressional District race, but debates have not yet been set in those races. There is also a plan to host an online meet the candidates' forum.

Though most of the country’s attention will be focused on the November presidential election, voters in Butler County will make "some very significant choices this year in state and local races as well,” said John Forren, Miami University political science professor and executive director of the Menard Family Center for Democracy.

“There are significant policy questions on the table, both in Columbus and in Washington, about the future of education, jobs, taxation, policing, health care, retirement security and social justice,” he said. “In these candidate debates, voters will have a valuable opportunity to hear directly from the candidates about what they want to do if they’re elected to office — and we’re very happy to be able to help shine a light on the choices that voters will have before them in November.”

Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the debates have been moved to an online platform, though while organizers say they’d prefer to host the events in-person. Staging the events live online “gives us a terrific opportunity to really expand the numbers of voters from through the region,” Forren said.

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It’s expected that this election will see the highest voter turnout in terms of absentee voting, which is either voting by mail or at the board of elections. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said the state’s county boards of elections have collectively received more than 1 million absentee ballot requests 55 days before the general election. Four years ago, Ohio didn’t crack the 1 million absentee ballot request mark until 28 days before the election.

“While we’re making sure voters will be able to safely vote in-person, this incredible demand for absentee voting (by mail) speaks to the confidence Ohioans have in the system,” said LaRose. “It’s strong. It’s secure. And our county boards of elections are prepared.”

In July, LaRose sent 87 percent of Ohio’s $12.8 million CARES Act allocation directly to the county boards of elections in order to, among other things, strengthen election infrastructure and hire temporary personnel.


Vote-by-mail and in-person early voting will begin next month in Ohio. Here are important dates to remember for the Nov. 3 general election:

Oct. 5: Voter registration deadline. Ohioans can register online or until 9 p.m. at their county board of elections office

Oct. 6: Absentee voting and in-office early voting can begin. In-office voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Oct. 24-25: First of two weekends for in-office early voting at boards of elections. Office voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24 and 1 to 5 p.m. Oct. 25.

Oct. 31-Nov. 1: Second of two weekends for in-office early voting at boards of elections. Office voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 31 and 1 to 5 p.m. Nov. 1.

Nov. 2: Last day for in-office early voting, all absentee ballots must be postmarked by this date. Office voting hours are from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s also the last day for military and overseas absentee voting.

Nov. 3: Election Day. Polls open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and absentee ballots may be hand-delivered to the elections office by 7:30 p.m

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