The Importance of Early Voting

In August 2013, Representative John Becker introduced legislation to restrict access to early voting in Ohio and prevent any weekend voting.  One of four voting gurus in Ohio, Norman Robbins, Research Director, Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates, put together some statistics about early voting:

  • Elimination of the last 3 days of in-person voting would take away an occasion to vote that was used by some 96,000 Ohioans in the 2012 election. 
  • Overall, about 1.9 million Ohioans (34% of total votes cast) cast their votes by voting early in-person or by mail. **Note: Numbers are rounded, and in some data reported separately for 13 "larger counties_ (>100,000 votes cast) and 75 "smaller counties" (<100,000 votes cast).

Early in-person voting, 2012 election compared to that in 2008:
About 580,000 in-person early votes were cast in 2012, a statewide increase of 13% (or 68,000 votes) over the number cast in 2008. This increase was almost entirely due to a 35% increase in the median percent of total votes cast early in-person in smaller counties. Larger counties showed only a 1% increase. 
Early in-person voting in the 3 days before election day:

  • About 96,000 Ohioans cast early in-person votes in the 3 days prior to election day, not different from 2008 (98,000 in the last 3 days). However, there was a 17% increase in the contribution of voters from smaller counties and a 2% decrease in such votes from larger counties.
  • NEOCH had 77% of the homeless individuals that we registered in 2012 vote on the three days before the November Election Day. (Not from Norman--source NEOCH)

Early in-person voting in the weekend (Sat and Sun) before election day:
A projected statewide total of 62,000 votes were cast on the Saturday and Sunday before the election: about 34,000 in the larger counties and about 28,000 in smaller counties. The remainder (34,000) were cast on the Monday before election day.
Early vote-by-mail:
  About 1,351,000 mail-in ballots were cast in 2012, representing only a 5% increase over the number cast by mail in 2008 despite mailing of ballot applications to all registered voters. 
  Maximum waits for early in-person voting on the last weekend:
The greatest inequity in early in-person voting between counties of different size was in the maximum times it took to vote on the last weekend, as reported either by media or by election officials: namely 1-4 hours in mostly larger counties, and less than 30 minutes in most smaller counties sampled.  (See Table 5 in reference given below for detail).

Note: Because of the difficulty in obtaining data from all counties, numbers provided here are projections from most of the larger counties and about 30 of the 75 smaller counties, which together was a sample of about 70% of the electorate.  However in estimating in-person early voting on the weekend before election day, data from only 21 smaller counties were available. Many of the numbers presented here and more county-specific detail are in the report, ""Analysis of early in-person and mail-in absentee voting in the Ohio 2012 general election compared to 2008" available at www.nova-ohio.org

NEOCH opposes this legislation and believe that the opportunity to vote on the weekend and to vote and register for one week over one month before the election are critical to very low income and homeless people.  We would like to see Ohio leadership develop way to make it easier to vote instead of regularly limiting access to the ballot box.