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Ohio loses bet to Michigan over 2020 voter turnout

State also fails to increase voter participation over 2004 and 2008 levels
December 1, 2020
Michele Lepore-Hagan News

State Representatives Paula Hicks-Hudson (D - Toledo), Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland), members of a Democratic caucus election policy working group,issued statements on the underwhelming voter turnout revealed by the official canvass results in Ohio.

Only 67.4% of Ohio’s Voting Eligible Population (VEP) voted in the 2020 election. Michigan’s final voter turnout was 73.9%, more than 6 points higher than Ohio. This means Secretary of State LaRose has lost his bet with Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson over which state would have greater participation. Ohio also failed to beat its own records. Ohio saw its highest turnout in 2004 with 67.9% and second highest turnout in 2008 with 67.8%. See historical state voter turnout data here.

The members plan to study the 2020 election official results to see what worked and what needs to change. All our sponsors of an elections reform bill, HB 687, introduced in June to deal with the immediate challenges presented by the pandemic.

Rep. Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati):

“While states around us see high rates of voter participation, Ohio has failed to progress under a decade of GOP rule. There is no reason at all that we cannot have the same voter participation as our neighboring states, but our GOP leaders are content to lose to Michigan. This is a sad result but a predictable one. For example, before Election Day, we asked Sec. LaRose to address the huge disparity in counties’ capacity for early voting and he did nothing.”

Rep. Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown):

“This is a disappointment. There is much work to be done to see how and where Ohioans were failed by their voting system. But one thing is clear, the state is not doing enough to make it easy for every Ohioan to vote. People were confused, they were scared of the pandemic and, if they lived in an urban county, they were forced to stand in long lines in the cold and rain to vote. What is Secretary LaRose’s explanation for this disappointing result? Here is the way to win the vote, Mr. Secretary; enact Universal Vote By Mail to guarantee an increase in voter participation and respect for the electoral process.”

Rep. Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo):

“No one should be calling this election a triumph when Ohioans are not able to vote like people in neighboring states. We need only look at basic voting rules to see the contrast. States with automatic voter registration and drop boxes and ease of access have higher voter participation. But Ohio’s GOP leaders are against these pro-voter provisions and it is shameful. Several areas of Toledo showed lower voter participation than other parts of the state. I want to know why. We will continue to push for reforms that Ohio voters need and deserve.”

Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland):

“In Cuyahoga County, both early and Election Day voters stood in long lines for several hours to exercise their most fundamental right. While their patience is commendable, these lines were preventable. My colleagues and I fought for months to make this election more accessible for working people, some of whom surely could not afford to wait. How many more Ohioans would have voted if Secretary LaRose had engaged with our legislation and responded to our calls for him to do everything in his power to help voters during a pandemic? Unless Republican officials choose to go forwards instead of backwards, Ohio will continue to fall behind its neighbors and I will never accept that.”

National news outlets before the election covered Ohio’s long early voting lines. The Guardian reported on Columbus’s “quarter-mile lines” and the Washington Post reported on Cuyahoga County’s “extraordinary, blocks-long lines.” While long lines can look like enthusiasm, they can be a deterrent to voters. Almost all of Ohio’s largest urban counties, where lines were consistently long at early voting, had a lower participation rate than the rest of the state.