Number of early ballots indicates low interest in election

LISBON – The May 6 primary election does not appear to be generating much interest judging by the number of early ballots cast so far.

Adam Booth, Columbiana County elections board director, reported at Thursday’s meeting that 528 early votes had been cast to date, with the primary election just weeks away.

“We’ve got what, a couple of weeks to go, and I think we’ll struggle to reach 1,000,” he told the board.

Early voting is considered a way to measure interest in any given election. Until about eight years ago, Ohioans could vote “absentee” prior to election day only if they were going to be out of the county on election day or otherwise unable to get to the polls. The law was changed, and now anyone can vote early for whatever reason.

Early voting for the primary election began April 1 and ends at noon May 3. There are about 65,000 registered voters eligible to cast a ballot in the election.

Board member Jim Beardsley said the small number of issues and contested races likely has something to do with the low turnout so far. “There isn’t a whole lot to vote on,” he said.

The are eight ballot issues, and the only contested primary races are in the Democratic primary for Congress, appeals court and county commissioner.

Booth pointed out most of the interest is coming from voters in the West Branch school district, who are being asked to enact an income tax. Approximately 84 of the early ballots have come from West Branch voters living in the county.

Beardsley, a Republican, also inquired about the procedures for voting for a write-in candidate and how those votes are counted. The only write-in candidate among the major parties is Tim Ginter, who is seeking the Republican nomination for state representative.

Booth said voters need to fill in the oval on the paper ballot that indicates they are voting for a write-in candidate and then write out the name. He said the vote will be counted as long as the first or last name of the candidate is written down.

Ginter is running in place of former state representative Craig Newbold, a Republican, who filed to run but later withdrew from the race after the filing deadline. Ginter was recruited to run for the position in Newbold’s place, but he had to do so as a write-in.

County Republican Party Chairman David Johnson, who is also a board member, issued a news release on Wednesday reminding party voters that Ginter was the endorsed GOP candidate and advising them how to go about voting for him. Johnson was absent from the meeting.

Ginter is unopposed in the primary, but to secure the nomination he needs at least 50 write-in votes, which Booth said is the number of signatures he would have needed on his candidacy petitions had he gone the normal route in seeking his party’s nomination.