It shouldn’t come as a surprise that local election officials are predicting anywhere from 85 to 90 percent of eligible voters will skip the Aug. 2 primary.
For many voters in Mahoning and Trumbull counties there’s no real incentive to cast a ballot.
That’s because their ballots have no contested primaries. It’s hard to fault someone who doesn’t want to vote for candidates in unopposed races.
If you’re a Democrat in Mahoning County and you live in the 58th Ohio House District — and realize you live in that district — your ballot has unopposed races for the state House, the 33rd Senate District, state central committeeman and state central committeewoman. This is for slightly more than half of Mahoning County.
If you’re a Republican in that district, you have unopposed races for state House, state Senate and state central committeewoman. The only contested race is for state central committeeman.
No offense to Columbiana County Republican Party Chairman Dave Johnson, the incumbent, or his challenger, Rick Barron, but running for the state central committee is about as inside politics as it gets.
The average voter has no idea what that job entails.
For those who are curious, the state central committee handles the business of the political party such as voting on party officers and endorsements. They also get hit up for money by the party.
In the 59th House District, which includes the rest of Mahoning County, the only contested Democratic race on that ballot is a four-person race for the state House seat. Every other Democratic race is unopposed.
Republicans don’t even have a candidate for that state House position and again the only contested race for that party’s voters on the ballot is for state central committeeman.
In Trumbull County in the 64th House District, there’s a contested Democratic primary for the House seat and no other contested races for that political party. This district takes in more than half of the county. Republicans in the 64th have contested races only for state central committee man and woman.
In the 65th District, which includes the rest of Trumbull County and a portion of Ashtabula County, there isn’t a Democratic candidate for the House seat. Democrats in that district can only vote for the uncontested candidates running for state central committee man and woman.
Republicans in that district can decide between two candidates for the state House seat and the state central committee man and woman races.
So, you can see there isn’t a great incentive to vote in the primary — and this is assuming voters understand what’s going on with this second primary Aug. 2.
The primary for state legislative and state central committee candidates initially was scheduled for May 3. But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled five times that maps approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio Redistricting Commission were unconstitutional as they were gerrymandered to unfairly favor Republicans.
That delayed the primary for these races.
Rather than postpone the May 3 primary, largely because the commission wanted to push ahead with races for Congress before the court could rule that map unconstitutional, the state is having the split primary.
The unconstitutional state legislative maps are in place for just this election, imposed by a federal court.
Because of the second primary and so little on the ballot, there is mass confusion and apathy among Mahoning Valley voters, according to local election officials.
“I can see why people have no interest in this and why a lot of people don’t know” about the Aug. 2 primary, said Thomas McCabe, director of the Mahoning County Board of Elections.
Only 44 people in Mahoning County turned out Wednesday, the first day of early voting.
But 119 showed up Wednesday in Trumbull County.
“That’s pretty excellent for the type of election it is,” said Stephanie Penrose, director of the Trumbull County Board of Elections. “It was kind of surprising.”
Penrose predicted 15 percent turnout for the Aug. 2 primary in Trumbull County.
“When I predict low, I like to be proven wrong,” she said.
Skolnick covers politics for The Vindicator and the Tribune Chronicle.