In an off-year election with relatively few decisions to make, Butler County’s turnout to vote on the November ballot could be anemic, but officials warn that important decisions must still be made in these years.
There are also no statewide issues on the ballot that historically brings voters to the polls, so November could be an “afterthought” for voters, said Miami University political science professor John Forren.
“The decisions made by our local officials are very important in determining our quality of life here in southwest Ohio,” he said. “But one of the long-standing ironies in American politics is that while our local elected officials make some very important decisions about how government affects our day-to-day lives, most of us are only vaguely aware of who serves in local office and what local government actually does for us.
“Elections for local government offices are often afterthoughts for voters who tend to be much more focused on federal races at the top of the ballot.”
Local governments have until Aug. 7 to file any tax issue, and potential candidates for office also must file petitions on that date. The Butler County Board of Election must certify all issues and candidates before they are placed on an election ballot.
“To see what a difference local government can make, just take a look around Butler County,” he said. “The decisions made by our local officials are very important in determining our quality of life here in southwest Ohio.”
For example, Forren said, elected leaders in Hamilton have been “key players” in making policies that made the city attractive to outside investors like Spooky Nook. In West Chester and Liberty townships, the Streets of West Chester and Liberty Center, respectively, “have come about in large part because of policy choices made in years past by elected officials at the township and county levels,” he said.
Odd-year, or local, elections historically will see the lowest voter turnout when there is not a popular or controversial statewide issue to draw voters to the polls. In 2013 and 2017, when there were no compelling statewide issues, Butler County voter turnout was less than 30 percent, and statewide turnout was 27 percent in 2013 and 30.3 percent in 2017.
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With nine weeks remaining for the board of elections to certify issues and candidates for office on the November ballot, here is how possible constested races in Butler County are shaping up:
HAMILTON: The race for Hamilton council is the most crowded in the county as nine people have pulled petitions to be one of the three people elected. As of Thursday, only two are certified to be on November ballot.
FAIRFIELD: Former councilman Terry Senger is certified for November’s election and will make a return to the board if he’s not challenged for the open Third Ward council seat, now held by Vice Mayor Debbie Pennington who is ineligible to seek re-election due to term limits. Second Ward Councilman Craig Keller pulled petitions, but has not yet filed. He told the Journal-News he’s “undecided right now” if he’ll file for re-election. Fairfield Parks Board member Dale Paullus, who also sits on Fairfield’s planning commission, has been certified to be on the November ballot.
FAIRFIELD TWP.: There’s a single open seat on Fairfield Twp.’s board of trustees, and Trustee Joe McAbee has been certified for a re-election bid, but Dawnitta Rae Ollis has pulled petitions. Former trustee Steve Morgan said he intends to run for election, though he hasn’t pulled petitions as of Thursday.
WEST CHESTER TWP.: West Chester Twp. Trustee Ann Becker is up for re-election, and though she hasn’t yet filed she would see a challenge from David Corfman, who ran against Becker in 2017 to fill an unexpired open seat on the board. Todd Parnell, Lakota School Board vice president, has pulled petitions to run for the seat.
OTHERS IN BUTLER COUNTY: There could be a competitive race in the village of Millville where three people have pulled petitions for the two open seats, as well as in Morgan, Reily, Ross, St. Clair townships where multiple people in those communities have pulled petitions. Each township has only one open seat for election.
Circulating petitions can be downloaded from the Butler County Board of Election’s website, and that activity will only be known when the elections office records when they are filed.
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