Thursday, November 09, 2000

Ohio turnout called disappointing


National numbers surprise analysts

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If Ohioans were riveted on the presidential election and determined to have their say, it couldn't be proven by the disappointing turnout numbers statewide on Tuesday.

        About a half million registered voters in Ohio whom elections officials expected would go to their polling places Tuesday didn't.

        Instead of the record 5.2 million voters predicted last week by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, 4.7 million — 62 percent — showed up.

        The actual Ohio turnout Tuesday was far less than the 5 million who showed up in the presidential election of 1992, when turnout in Ohio was 77 percent.

        Although the Ohio numbers may have disappointed some people, the percentage was higher than the national average of 50.7 percent of eligible voters who went to the polls, according to Curtis Gans, director of the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. That number surprised many analysts who predicted a low turnout.

        Final numbers for Kentucky weren't available Wednesday, but turnout in the Bluegrass State appeared to be less than the 73 percent who voted in 1992 and more than the 59 percent who went to the polls four years ago.

        Elections officials in Hamilton County predicted a whopping 77 percent of the county's 585,985 registered voters would vote Tuesday, but the actual turnout was only 63 percent.

        “It was pretty consistent around the state,” said Carlo LoParo, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State. “The projections were pretty optimistic.”

        Mr. LoParo said that the secretary of state's office arrives at its statewide projection by averaging the projections of county elections directors around the state.

        Because of the competition of the presidential race and the large number of absentee ballots that were flowing into county boards of elections, county officials tended to overestimate their actual turnout.

        Hamilton County's turn out was in line with most major urban counties in Ohio. The exception was Cuyahoga County — Ohio's Democratic stronghold — where turnout dipped to 56 percent.

        Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush won Ohio's 21 electoral votes by taking 50 percent to Democrat Al Gore's 46 percent. It was much closer than the eight-to-10 point lead Mr. Bush carried in Ohio's pre-election polling.

        Had turnout been higher in heavily Democratic northeast Ohio, Mr. Bush's Ohio lead might have shrunk considerably or disappeared altogether.

        Ohio had generally higher than usual turnout figures in urban areas where there are large numbers of African-American voters, but the increases in African-American turnout were not as large as in cities like Detroit and Philadelphia — both located in states Mr. Gore won Tuesday night.

        Brewster Rhoads, who ran the successful campaign to pass a Cincinnati Public School levy, said that in the school district the gap between the high turnout of predominately white precincts and predominately black precincts that existed when the school levy was defeated last November “almost disappeared” Tuesday.

        The school levy, Mr. Rhoads said, clearly increased black voter turnout in Hamilton County.

        In Kentucky, a state won by Mr. Bush easily with a 15 percent margin, voters in the northern Kentucky counties of Boone, Kenton and Campbell helped pump up the Bush numbers.

        Boone County Clerk Marilyn Rouse said the 33,000 Boone Countians who went ot the polls Tuesday were the largest number to vote in that county. Mr. Bush won 69 percent of the vote in Boone County.

        In Kenton County, Clerk Bill Aylor said Mr. Bush was helped by a large turnout in traditionally Republican suburbs along Dixie Highway, including Park Hills, Fort wright, Fort Mitchell, Crestview Hills and Edgewood.

        “Our overall turnout was 63 percent, but when you get into that core area along Dixie Highway it was more like 75 to 80 percent,” Mr. Aylor said. “That's Republican territory.”

       



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