Midterms attract large voter turnout but elections board reports smooth sailing

By Tom Corrigan - tcorrigan@aimmediamidwest.com

The national media largely branded Tuesday’s midterm election as a referendum on President Donald Trump. Nationally, that may indeed have been the case. But judging from a handful of voters talked to by the Daily Times in and around the Southern Ohio Medical Center Life Center, for the most part, like him or dislike him, the president did not really play much of a part in how voters in Scioto County cast their ballots.

“Trump’s really not the issue for Scioto County races,” said Grace Valentine who had just finished voting inside the SOMC Life Center, which was described by one poll worker as the largest polling place in the county.

First saying she was voting in about her 25th election, Valentine said any controversy surrounding the president may have motivated voters who otherwise would have stayed home to make it to the polls. In her mind, that was a very good thing.

“I don’t care who you vote for as long as you get out and vote,” Valentine concluded. “It sounds corny to some but it’s your duty to get out and vote. People have died, my grandfather died in World War II along with a lot of others, so you could have the right to vote.”

Perhaps, somewhat surprisingly for such a crowded polling place, there appeared to be only one candidate outside the Life Center making a last-ditch pitch. And it could be argued the effort paid as former candidate Brian Baldridge is now the representative-elect for the 90th Ohio House District.

On Tuesday, as voting was taking place, Baldridge said he understood feelings regarding Trump played a part on the national stage during the midterms. But he added the president’s name only came up occasionally as he stumped around the area.

“There’s always a trickle-down for some folks,” Baldridge said. But he believes voters in southern Ohio are more interested in the character and beliefs of the individuals they are voting for locally then what the national party of any given candidate might be promoting. “That’s why we ran the kind of campaign we did… You’ve got to get out and meet folks. People want to put a face with the name.”

Inside the Life Center, poll worker Phil Malone said he was working roughly his sixth election. He said the polling place was definitely busier than usual for a midterm. Malone believes the upturn in voters was due to social media activity. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.

“You’re a lot more likely to put something online that you wouldn’t say to somebody’s face,” Malone said. In an odd way that might lead to more honesty, he added. “You end up getting the real deal.”

According to final but unofficial numbers posted on the Scioto County elections website, the 2018 midterm drew 23,595 ballots or 49.7 percent of the county’s 47,413 registered voters. The most recent previous midterm in 2014 attracted a mere 18,914 voters or 40 percent of those registered to vote at the time. While the numbers for the recent midterm were definitely an increase over previous midterm balloting, the numbers fell short of those racked up during the last presidential election in 2016. That election attracted 31,513 ballots or 67.9 percent of registered voters.

It might or might not be worth noting the number of registered voters has increased by over 1,000 since 2016.

On Wednesday, Scioto County elections Director Julia Gearheart said the recent midterm went very smoothly. She reported no problems at any of the county’s precincts or polling places and said final numbers were tallied within a few hours of the polls closing.

Scioto County instituted what Gearheart described as a memory card system in 2005. Poll workers are required to return to the board of elections both the paper ballots and the memory cards inside the polling machines into which voters may remember feeding their ballots. Gearheart said Tuesday’s election was only the second time since 2005 that no poll workers forgot to bring back both the paper ballots as well as the memory cards.

The ballot count will be finalized and certified, making results official, at 3 p.m. Nov 20, Gearheart said.

By Tom Corrigan