Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Early Voting Is Way Up in Ohio

Speaking of abortion policy, and its impact on elections, reader R.E.M. in Brooklyn brings to our attention a story out of Ohio: Early-voting turnout for the upcoming special election is massive.

Recall that the initiative being voted upon, Issue 1, would make it much harder to pass future initiatives, increasing the number of votes needed from 50% + 1 to 60% + 1. It would also make it harder to get future initiatives, particularly left-leaning initiatives, on the ballot. This is accomplished by imposing very stringent signature requirements that would dictate that a big chunk of signatures be collected in every county, including the sparsely populated red ones. As we noted just yesterday, the point of Issue 1 is to make it harder to legalize abortion in the Buckeye State. And the point of scheduling the vote for August is to sneak the initiative in under the noses of voters while they're not looking.

The latter part of that strategy has clearly failed. Through the first week of early voting (July 11-19), more than 155,000 people cast ballots. That leaves 2 more weeks to go before the deadline for absentee ballots (Aug. 1) and 3 weeks to go before the actual election (Aug. 8). To put that 155,000 in context, there was a total of just 138,000 early ballots cast in last year's Senate primaries in May, despite the hotly contested race on the GOP side of the aisle. Or, to look at it a different way, the first week of ballots includes about 16,500 early votes and 5,500 absentee votes per day. If you extend that out over the entire early-voting period, it projects to about 460,000 early in-person votes and 110,000 absentee votes, for a total of 570,000. In the election held in August of last year (for state legislature), a total of 640,000 votes were cast, with the great majority of those coming on Election Day. This year's August election will blast past that, and may well double it.

Ohio isn't counting the early ballots yet, per state law, but surely the ballots already cast skew heavily in an anti-Issue 1 direction. Why do we say so? Well, first, left-leaning people are consistently more likely to use early voting than right-leaning people. Second, that general rule is borne out by the demographics of the ballots that have already been cast in Ohio—the lion's share of the early vote has been in Franklin, Hamilton and Cuyahoga counties, all of them very blue. Third, poll after poll shows that Ohioans oppose Issue 1 by a 2-to-1 margin. If your side is in the minority by such a lopsided margin, your only hope of winning an election is to have a small, non-representative electorate. That's clearly not happening here.

We won't know for a few weeks if Issue 1 is going to be defeated. At least, we won't know for sure. However, the tea leaves give a pretty strong indication of where things are headed. And if Issue 1 loses in a blowout, driving people to the polls in the August heat and humidity because that's what it takes to keep abortion legal, then it also presages what's going to happen in November, when Ohioans vote directly on a pro-choice ballot proposition. (Z)

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