COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — With nearly one week left to go until election day, experts are predicting what early voting and absentee numbers mean for this year’s midterm.
Christopher McKnight Nichols, the Wayne Woodrow Hayes Chair in National Security Studies at Ohio State University, said it’s an enthused election cycle, but next week’s early voting and absentee ballot numbers are crucial to understanding what the election will bring.
“If we see a flat early voting and absentee set of numbers coming in next week, that would be emboldening for Republicans,” Nichols said. “I think they’d be very happy with that result.”
Nichols said Democratic voters tend to vote early, while Republican voters mostly vote on election day — so if there is going to be a “blue wave” in the state, Nichols said it would show up in Democrats’ early voting numbers.
“If we’re not seeing that, it may be an early indicator that this wave may be a small ripple,” Nichols said.
In 2018, voter turnout for the midterm was 55%, compared to 40% in 2014, according to the Ohio Secretary of State website. Nichols said any increase from 2018 shows a particular interest in this election, since it is already exceeding record numbers.
But he said something not previously seen in Ohio is a large number of split ballots, where someone might vote Republican for governor and Democratic for U.S Senate — or vice-versa.
“This looks like a rare election where that may happen,” Nichols said. “At the highest part of the ballot, you’ll have people going for major politicians of different parties. So, what does that indicate for those who are trying to figure out what the early voting might mean? We can’t say.”
Nichols said single-issue voting is also strong this midterm election in ways it has not been previously.
“This is a moment where there are issues people care tremendously about,” Nichols said. “Whether they feel it when they’re driving with gas prices, or they feel it going to their doctor and thinking of reproductive rights.”
Nichols also pointed out that after the Dobbs Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, more young and female voters have registered to vote. A question he said still remains, however: Will they turn out to vote in a significant way?