COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As Election Day gets closer, experts on both sides of the aisle are talking about split ballots — when someone votes Republican for one top race on the ballot and Democrat for the other.
“It’s a pattern in Ohio that’s actually played out quite often,” Democratic strategist David Pepper said.
Pepper and Republican strategist Terry Casey agree that split ballots are not an oddity in Ohio, but Pepper said in the past, they have been influential.
“In 2018, Sherrod Brown won by seven points and Mike DeWine won by a little bit under four,” Pepper said. “So, there were again, voters, who clearly were picking from both parties.”
“Split ballots are normal,” Casey said. “The question is how the Republican or Democrat base come back, with what enthusiasm on Election Day.”
Some voters on both sides of the aisle said they are splitting their ballots for top races for Governor and U.S. Senate.
“When you have the kind of name ID that Mike DeWine has and you also did enough things like the COVID response to appeal to moderate voters, he started off in a very strong place,” Pepper said. “It would take a very strong campaign to oust him, but he can be beat.”
“In the Senate race, you’ve got an open seat which makes it very different, and JD Vance has had to come back from a very bitter, divisive primary,” Casey said. “And he’s not been a previous statewide or area, so he doesn’t have a base of name ID.”
But both strategists said that at the end of election night, it is going to come down to voter turnout.
“Turnout is a key thing,” Casey said. “Particularly because 2022 is an off-year election, especially for a lot of younger voters, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm and interest compared to a presidential.”
“If you have a relatively even turnout, that ticket-splitting could mean you have a Republican winning governor’s race and a Democrat winning the Supreme Court or Senate races,” Pepper said.
Overall, early voting across the state is outpacing 2018 numbers. According to the Secretary of State’s office, at this time in 2018, there were 81,000 fewer votes cast. But both strategists said while early voters are typically Democrats, it is difficult to predict what these numbers mean.
“The question will be how much of a lead do Democrats build up during early vote versus how much do Republicans catch up on Election Day,” Pepper said. “A lot of that stuff is hard to read, and I think, at this point, apples to apples comparisons to past years only get you so far because I think the truth is, over time, more and more people are voting early.”
“It’s hard to read into it because when you look at some counties like Cuyahoga County where Cleveland is at, their early voting numbers have been below 2018 and much below 2020,” Casey said. “So, it’s hard to say. It depends on the county. But one of the mistakes people make is they forget Ohio is a very big and diverse state.”