People converse outside of the Board of Elections building, Athens, Ohio, Oct. 27, 2023. Photo by Madeline Lynch.

People converse outside of the Board of Elections building, Athens, Ohio, Oct. 27, 2023. Photo by Madeline Lynch.

Turnout could go up

Published November 2, 2023

Turnout could go up

State issues could increase voter turnout

By Avery St. George | For The Post

Voters in the U.S. tend to participate at higher rates during Presidential election years compared to other elections because they often pay less attention to local and state elections and tend to be more involved on the national scale.

Specifically in Athens County, the 2021 general election had a voter turnout of about 27% of 38,961 registered voters, whereas the 2020 Presidential election boasted a turnout of nearly 67% of 39,423 registered voters. This means that of the citizens who voted in 2020, less than half showed up the next year to vote.

“I think there’s a lot more passion when it comes to who’s running the country and who’s representing us per state whether it’s a Congress member or a senator,” Patterson said. “Citizens are more likely to see what’s happening in Congress or the White House because it’s more documented on the news and on social media. This leads to more passion about voting for a favorite candidate or political party.”

Local politics can go unnoticed by voters, which may be why odd-year elections bring out fewer voters because there are mostly local issues on the ballots.

“People think that the city’s running smoothly and they like the way things are going, (but) sometimes what happens is that people can–or do–forget to vote or they like the way things are going so they don’t vote, which is sad,” Patterson said.

Patterson is up for reelection and the last time there was a mayor’s race on the ballot, turnout was low with around 18% of registered voters in the city of Athens showing up to vote. His opponent in 2019 and in the upcoming November election, Damon Krane, said that he believes this year's turnout for the mayor race could be much higher than it was in 2019.

“Turnout in city elections is usually very low; however, this time around, we’ve got these two historic statewide issues on the ballot, Issues 1 and 2, which do have the potential to make turnout be a lot higher than usual,” Krane said.

If the Issues win this November, Issue 1 will enshrine abortion access in the Ohio constitution and Issue 2 will legalize recreational marijuana.

Officials who are hoping for a high turnout Nov. 7 were probably reassured by the promising turnout in August for the special election. Around 37% of Athens County residents showed up to vote, which is a higher turnout than both the 2021 and 2019 general elections. Local officials said they were not surprised by these numbers, though.

Both Athens mayoral candidates, Patterson and Krane, said they knew that Athens residents would show up to vote in August in high numbers. Patterson even said he had hoped for more of Athens County to show up to the polls.

“I wish (turnout) would have been higher, quite honestly,” said Patterson. “Because the August election was extremely important when it comes to our citizens' rights to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot.”

Sky Pettey, chair of the Athens County Board of Elections said he thinks turnout in August was so high because the issue on the ballot affected all Ohioans, unlike a lot of special elections in previous years.

“A lot of times in those August special elections you have maybe not issues that are of that much statewide importance,” Pettey said. “You’ll have a lot of Sunday liquor sales ordinances and smaller things a lot of times in those special elections that are important to the individuals who they affect but aren’t as big statewide issues like abortion rights.”

Athens political figures are encouraging voters to bring the same enthusiasm they brought to the August special election to the November election.

Krane urged voters who support abortion and marijuana to get out and vote so the issues can continue to affect decisions on the national level.

“This year, Ohio is the only state in the whole country that has a reproductive rights ballot measure,” Krane said. “I would stress to the Ohio voters that they’re also important for maintaining this momentum nationally, both when it comes to reproductive rights and when it comes to drug policy reform,” Krane said.

AUTHOR: Avery St. George

EDITOR: Donovan Hunt

COPY EDITOR: Addie Hedges

PHOTOGRAPHY: Madeline Lynch