SCIOTO — Those wishing to participate in the 2021 election have fewer items on their ballots than last year’s election, but still possess a chance to participate in the civic duty.
Since April 6, voters have been afforded the opportunity to beat the crowds by voting early at the Scioto County Board of Elections office.
Among those that have voted early is 3rd Ward candidate Andy Cole, who shared his experience walking into the courthouse to cast his vote- presumably for himself- in a video on his Facebook campaign page.
“Come down and do this at your convenience,” he said in the April 19 clip. “It’s quick and easy; please come down to support me.”
Elections of this nature, where no national or state races are taking place this year, often lead to low turnout rates said SCBOE Director Julia Gearheart. 2019 was the last instance of a sole, locally-focused election where the turnout rate countywide was just under 24%. Last year’s turnout towered that with more than 70% of Scioto’s 46,121 registered casting votes.
Turnout so far, taking place amid the coronavirus and where vaccinations are being conducted by the Scioto County Health Department, Gearheart said was about as expected.
“I will tell you it has been very slow so far,” she said in a Wednesday interview.
As of April 21, Gearheart said only six voters have shown up to the office, 16 requested mail-in ballots and one through hand-carry. Of those 23 ballots issued, 13 have been returned with six mail-in ballots received by the office.
Perhaps part of the low turnout so far is that the primary only includes four of the county’s 77 voting precincts. All four are in Portsmouth’s 3rd Ward where candidates Jerry Skiver, Gary Jenkins, and Cole are trying to be among the top two to advance to the general election.
It continues the precedent of a 4th Ward primary, Gearheart said which was also noted by low turnout.
“I don’t know if it’s that people don’t know there’s an election going on in the 3rd Ward or if they are waiting for Election Day,” she said. “Because it’s so small, it’s not heard as often.”
The turnout in primaries, such as the one coming up in less than two weeks, is even lower than the later general election in November. In the 2019 primary, less than 3% of Scioto voters cast their votes for the Scioto County Career Technical Center levy, which passed with 75% of the vote.
November 2019 attracted more voters, but still less than the 2017 election which also primarily focused on city councils, township trustees and school district officials. Turnout in Portsmouth especially drew that rate down, where less than 13% of voters in each of the second, fourth, and sixth Wards cast their vote.
2017, the last time the city’s first, third, and 5th Ward council seats were on the ballot, had a higher combined turnout of 26% but still paled in comparison to 2020 when just under 60% of Portsmouth’s 10,666 registered voters participated.
Current time slots for early voting are between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but that will be expanded next Monday, April 26. For that week leading up to the May 4 primary, voters will have until 7 p.m. during the week and have options for Saturday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Those wishing to participate May 4 have to be 3rd Ward residents and can cast their vote at the Portsmouth Life Center on 1202 18th St.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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