Misleading texts lead to confusion in 12th District race

Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

Thousands of people have been showing up at the Franklin County Board of Elections to vote in the 12th Congressional District Special Election this year.

As of Monday, 8,772 people were able to cast their ballot early on site and another 5,939 people have mailed in absentee ballots. An additional 137 provisional ballots are waiting as well.

This higher than anticipated turn out is fueling a positive outlook on voter participation in the special election Tuesday, with estimates that around 30% of eligible voters could visit the polls.

Thirty percent doesn’t seem like a lot at first glance, but election officials say when it comes to voting it is. In May the primary election saw 29% voter turnout for the entire county.

Even more people wanted to vote in the election but cannot and were turned away because they do not live in the 12th Congressional District.

Franklin County is split into three congressional districts, the 12th, the 15th, and the 3rd.

Some people living near the edges of the 12th, and in some cases nowhere near it were unable to cast a ballot because it isn’t their district and they do not get a say in who will represent the constituents that do live there.

Instead, people living in Upper Arlington and Powell are represented by someone who also represents people living in Zanesville and Delaware.

The confusion for some Franklin County voters is compounded by television ads they all see but only apply to a portion of them.

Then there are the robocalls and the robotexts, urging voters to cast those votes.

Sometimes, well-intentioned robotexts end up going to the wrong people.

This text was sent to a woman who lives in the 15th Congressional District and will not be able to vote for Troy Balderson or his opponent Danny O’Connor.

Somewhere between 15 and 20 people have reported receiving what they describe as misleading texts to the Franklin County Board of Elections.

It is unclear at this time if any of those reports were the result of intentional attempts at misleading the voter or if they were simply sent to people they do not apply to unintentionally.

Regardless, people who received the texts that do not apply to them can become confused by the content of the text and that confusion could cause problems for them on election day, if they go to the wrong polling locations.

The Board of Elections makes it clear; it will never send a text to tell you your voting location has changed. It will always send a postcard via the U.S. Mail notifying you your polling location has changed and provide you with all the information you need.

Should you have further questions of concerns about your polling location you should contact your county board of elections.

The potential for interference in the election could extend beyond simple texts claiming someone’s polling location has changed and they need to go to new place.

A viewer who reached out to NBC 4 today claims she has received two phone calls from a live person, one to her landline and another to her cell phone.

The viewer says the person on the other end of the phone claims her polling location has changed when the viewer knew that it had not.

According to the viewer when they challenged the human on the line about this inaccuracy, the caller hung up.

When the viewer dialed the number back, they claim the call could not be completed because the number had been spoofed.

Right now voters in the 12th Congressional District, and in some cases outside of it, are being bombarded with efforts to get them to the polls on Tuesday.

Some, like Catherine Turcer of the Common Cause Ohio, are concerned that misinformation could damage the election results.

“It hurts everyone when there is misleading information out there, because what happens is people are like, ‘Well who do I actually trust?’” said Turcer.

The national spotlight has been cast upon this race and is bringing in a lot of attention.

The President of the United States Donald Trump cut a robocall for Troy Balderson that is set to begin dialing Monday evening.

There are claims that a robocall from former Vice President Joe Biden on behalf of Danny O’Connor is already running in the district.

According to the most recent Monmouth University poll, a lower than normal voter turnout benefits Republican Troy Balderson giving him a several point lead over Democrat Danny O’Connor.

However, the same poll also shows two other models based on voter turnout.

If voters turn out in number typical for a midterm election year, Balderson maintains his lead over O’Connor but only by a slim 1% margin, according to the poll.

Finally, the poll posits that if there is a surge in Democrat voters going to the polls Tuesday, it is O’Connor that enjoys a slim 1% lead over Balderson based on the model.

No matter which model you choose to look at, all of them fall within the margin of error for the poll and that coupled with other trends it identifies is the reason the race has been determined to be a “dead heat.”

As such, and perhaps more than at any other time in the last 20 years, every potential vote will be valuable in the 12th Congressional District Special Election on Tuesday.

For nearly the past two decades the Republican who held the seat who stepped down in January, Pat Tiberi, enjoyed victory margins in the double digits due to his popularity.
With his resignation leaving a vacuum, the Republican running in his place, Troy Balderson, has not been able to capitalize on that same popularity and the national political situation may also be diminishing what would normally be a bigger lead, according to the poll.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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