Voter turnout average

Eastern Ohio saw 35 percent participation

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — About 35 percent of registered voters in Eastern Ohio counties cast ballots at the polls last Tuesday’s general election.

According to Belmont County Board of Elections Director Bill Shubat, that is an average turnout for an “off-year election” in which there are no statewide or nationwide candidates.

Monroe County had the highest overall percentage of voters, with 37.14 percent turning out; Jefferson County saw 26.62 percent; Harrison County had 35.52 percent; and Belmont County reported a 29.08 percent turnout, all according to unofficial election night totals.

Shubat said he expected about a 30 percent turnout in this election. In the 2013 and 2015 elections, Belmont County had turnouts of 30 percent and 44 percent respectively. Shubat said he attributes the larger turnout in 2015 to statewide ballot Issue 3, a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would have legalized recreational marijuana. Jefferson County also experienced a larger voter turnout in 2015 — 47 percent — which Jefferson County Board of Elections Director Diane Gribble also attributes to the marijuana initiative.

“I thought we could have seen 45 percent turnout this year because of our mayor’s race in Steubenville and a few villages and township elections with a lot of people running. We also had a big-time levy for Indian Creek School District that did not pass,” Gribble said.

The top two precincts for voter turnout in Jefferson County were the 6th Ward in Steubenville, which reported a 51.95 percent turnout, and the Village of Stratton, which had a 52.88 percent turnout. The lowest precinct turnout in Jefferson County was 9.02 percent, which was for the precinct that serves most of the students at Franciscan University.

“Historically, the students don’t go out to vote in off-year elections. They come out for presidential and gubernatorial elections primarily,” Gribble said. “Steubenville 6th Ward saw a high turnout because of races for mayor, city council and the school district levy, and Stratton had a lot of people running for a couple of spots on council, a mayor’s race and someone running for treasurer.”

The two precincts with the most voter turnout in Belmont County were Morristown Village and Richland Township 5th Ward, which reported turnouts of 43.75 percent and 39.73 percent respectively.

“The Morristown voting was driven by council, township trustees and school board elections,” Shubat said. “The bottom two precincts were Bridgeport 1st Ward with 13.08 percent and Martins Ferry 4th Ward with 16.71 percent. Some precincts just really don’t come out unless it’s a presidential election or governor’s election.”

A village of Belmont precinct had a new location this year — at the village firehouse rather than at the Carnes Center 14 miles away. It reported a turnout of 30.90 percent. Some officials were expecting a higher turnout because of the excitement surrounding residents’ ability to vote locally again instead of having to travel to the St. Clairsville area, but Shubat said he was not surprised at that total.

“They vote. It was just an off-year election and not many local races or issues on their ballot in Belmont,” Shubat said. “Now, if there would have been a race for mayor, they would have come out in high numbers.”

Monroe County Board of Elections Director Mollie Landefeld said the highest turnouts in that county occurred in Benton and Seneca townships, with Benton Township experiencing a 56.48 percent turnout and Seneca a 50.82 percent turnout. Landefeld attributes the higher turnout in Benton Township to a highly contested township trustee race.

“There was a write-in candidate for trustee in Seneca Township and a levy in which the vote is currently tied,” Landefeld said.

The lowest precinct voter percentage totals in Monroe County were recorded in the Woodsfield South precinct and in Jackson Township, where there were no local issues or contested races.

The precincts of Freeport Township and German Township in Harrison County drew the highest percentage of voters Tuesday due to seven levies on the ballot in Freeport Township, which all passed, and a contested township trustee race in German Township. In that race, three candidates ran for two seats and the vote totals were very close.

The lowest voter turnout numbers in Harrison County were found in Deersville Village precinct, which saw 22 percent of registered voters going to the polls, and the village of Scio, which saw a 20 percent turnout. There were no contested races in either village.

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