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Democratic Absentee Ballot Requests Still Outpacing Republicans In Key Ohio Counties

An absentee ballot application from the state of Ohio.
Darrin McDonald

Absentee ballot requests are flooding into boards of election offices around Ohio. Secretary of State Frank LaRose reports 1.4 million applications have been received so far, well more than the 1.2 million ballot requests received in all of 2016. 

Democrats are again dominating those requests, even in Republican counties.

An analysis of only mailed-in ballots from all of 2016 compared to absentee ballot applications sent in so far in 2020 shows requests from Democratic-affiliated voters are way ahead of those from voters affiliated with the Republican Party. Most requests, though, are from unaffiliated voters.

Voters in Ohio aren’t registered with a party, but can be affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party, or a voter can be unaffiliated. A voter is considered unaffiliated if there’s no record of that voter casting a partisan primary ballot for three years.

In very red Delaware County, nearly 58% of partisan absentee ballots requests received this year are from Democrats, with just over 42% from Republicans.

In 2016, 76% of all-partisan ballots were from Republicans. This year, the number of applications sent in by Democrats is more than three times the number from Democrats who voted by mail four years ago. The number sent in by Republicans so far is two-thirds of the total of ballots mailed in by Republicans in 2016.

Portage County is a swing county, which flipped to the Republican candidate for the first time since 1988. In all of 2016, 58% of partisan ballots mailed in were from Republicans, 42% from Democrats.

So far this year, 74% of partisan applications have come from Democrats. That’s two-and-a half times as many ballots as the total mailed in by Democrats four years ago. Requests from Republicans are two-thirds of the total mailed in by GOP voters in 2016.

Montgomery County is another swing county, voting for a Republican for president last year for the first time since 1988. In all of 2016, two-thirds of partisan ballots were from Republicans, with a third from Democrats.

This year’s absentee ballot applications have totally reversed that. Democrats have sent in nearly two-and-a half times as many absentee ballot requests than all of those mailed in by Democrats four years ago.

Erie County was the state’s 2016 bellwether. Trump won the county by more than 9 points in 2016, and won the state by 8 points. It also had voted for Democrats for president since 1988. In all of 2016, Republicans sent in 57% of all-partisan ballots.

This year, Democrats make up 69% of the absentee ballot requests. This year Democrats have requested twice as many absentee ballots as all those mailed in by Democrats in 2016. Republicans have requested two-thirds of the total that GOP voters returned by mail in 2016.

Mahoning County has been a blue county since 1968. Four years ago, 42% of all the partisan ballots mailed in were from Republicans, 58% from Democrats. But this year, Democratic absentee ballot requests are 76% of all partisan applications.

However the ballot requests are coming in slower in Mahoning County. So far, requests from both parties are below the total ballots mailed in four years ago.

It's unclear whether these Democratic voters are asking for early ballots because of concerns about coronavirus or delays in the postal system. It's possible that Republicans are responding to President Trump's unfounded claims that voting by mail is problematic and are planning to cast ballots in person. The numbers suggest Democratic enthusiasm leading up to election day on November 3.

Ohioans can register to vote in the upcoming election until October 6, and request an absentee ballot until October 31. But election officials and voting rights groups urge residents to start the process as soon as possible.