Ohio voters must register by Monday; LaRose 'wouldn't be surprised' at single-digit turnout Aug. 8
Monday, July 10 is the voter registration deadline for the August 8 special election. The only question is Issue 1, which would raise the voter approval threshold for constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60%. Since this election wasn’t on the calendar until lawmakers put the issue forward in May, both supporters and opponents are working to get out the vote.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a primary backer of Issue 1, said the state is close to 8 million registered voters. He suggests those who want to vote either sign up or check their registration at voteohio.gov.
LaRose said he’s talking up the August 8 vote because turnout will be critical on such an important change.
“We're doing all we can to get the word out, to make sure people know. But I'm not going to predict numbers. I wouldn't be surprised if it's similar to what we saw in last year's primary that was held in August," LaRose said.
But when asked about the potential of a small number of voters deciding this critical issue, LaRose and other Republicans have said they expect a bigger turnout than the 7.9% last August because of attention on Issue 1.
"Do I have turnout concerns in school levies in August, because very few people come out and they're done when people are on vacation and they don't know about it, and liquor permits and things like that, that typically happen? Yeah," Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said in March. "But I think in this case, it's something that a lot of people are going to be very fired up about, and the turnout will be larger than usual."
Also in March, LaRose said that “the single biggest factor that determines how much turnout you'll see is how excited people are about the candidates or the issues that are on the ballot.”
“I can promise you a lot of coverage, a lot of news about it. There will be very few people in the state not aware that there is a constitutional question on the ballot in August. You'd have to be in a cave to perhaps not realize that that issue was there," LaRose said.
And requests for absentee ballots at local boards of elections are running high. Some county elections officials have said they're expecting turnout around 30%, which is high compared to last year's primary but low compared to most statewide off-year elections.
Most August special elections were eliminated in a Republican-backed law that took effect in April, with low turnout and high costs as the reasons. But the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that law didn’t apply to state lawmakers calling an election. A primary that was ordered for state representatives and senators last August after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Republican-drawn legislative maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered brought out 7.9% of Ohio's registered voters.
LaRose and Huffman have both said passing this higher threshold in August is important because of an abortion rights amendment that's expected on the ballot in November. Most conservative groups support Issue 1 because of that. But the American Policy Roundtable, which advocates for causes of concern for conservative Christians in Ohio and is against the abortion rights amendment, isn't among them.
In an interview on "The State of Ohio" in May, American Policy Roundtable vice president Rob Walgate said he thinks the reproductive rights issue would fail without the Issue 1 change.
Walgate added: "It's nothing more than a power grab. And it's blatant hypocrisy when you look at their position on August elections from a few months ago to their position on August elections today."