Election officials in Cuyahoga, Lake, Stark and Portage counties say voter turnout for Super Tuesday's presidential primary has been anything but super.
"So far, we have a 1.5 percent voter turnout based on our samplings of the polling places throughout Cuyahoga County," said Jane Platten, director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland. "Usually, the samplings are pretty much on target. We don’t have a lot of voters out there yet. But I’m hoping that with the good weather and some generated interested throughout the day, we will get a higher turnout."
Voters who declare a party at the polls are deciding which candidates will represent their party in races in the November general election. In addition to the Republican presidential nomination, voters are choosing candidates for judgeships, congressional seats, the Ohio legislature, countywide offices and a variety of local tax issues for schools and cities.
The number of absentee ballots returned has been strong but lower than the 2008 presidential primary. As of this morning, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections received about 86,000 absentee ballots out of the 113,000 voters requested. During the 2008 presidential election, voters requested about 101,000 absentee ballots but only 90,000 were returned.
In her experience, Platten said, the voter turnout is usually driven by what's on the ballot.
"In 2008, we had a hotly contested Democratic presidential primary in a Democratic-leaning county, and today we have hotly contested Republican presidential primary that will hopefully spike up our Republican participation," said Platten. "The other difference is that we don’t have all of the county offices on the ballot that we historically have had in past primary elections, because of the county government reorganization."
In Lake County, Betty L. Youngberg, deputy directory of Lake County Board of Elections, described voter turnout as "fairly slow."
"For our absentee ballots, we had 7,669 requests for absentee ballots and 6,770 received," said Youngberg. "That's low compared to other primaries. In the 2008 primary, there were 22,000 absentee ballots cast."
Faith Lyon, deputy director of Portage County's board of elections, also said voter turnout has been "fairly slow."
"At one pollling place we had only three voters show up (as of 10 a.m.)," Lyon said.
Lyon said 1,774 absentee ballots were received, which is significantly lower than the 2008 presidential primary when Portage County voters returned 4,449 absentee ballots.
In Stark County, voter turnout also was believed to be light during the morning hours, said Jeanette Mullane, Stark County Board of Elections director.
"The absentee ballots returned is definitely lower than what we had during the 2008 presidential primary election," said Mullane. "We had 7,284 absentee ballots requested and 6,432 were returned as of this morning."
In the 2008 presidential primary, Stark County voters cast about 14,000 absentee ballots.
Officials from Summit County Board of Elections were unavailable for comment this morning.
Election officials report no major problems at polling places. The polls close at 7:30 p.m.