Early voting has not led to more voting in Ohio, at least not in terms of total votes cast. A Dispatch analysis of the vote totals from the past three presidential elections in the state shows that overall turnout in the 2012 race, when Ohioans arguably had the most opportunities in state history to vote early, was lower than in the 2004 election, when there was virtually no early voting in Ohio. Turnout in 2008, the first presidential race in which Ohioans had no-fault absentee voting and also the first time an African-American was on the ballot, was about 1 percent higher than in 2004. “People who vote early are people who are typically going to vote anyway,” said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University. “So, early voting hasn’t really succeeded in turning out more people to vote. We’ve made it a lot easier to vote, but on the other hand, some people are very discouraged about politics and might not care how easy it is to vote.”
Being able to cast a vote before Election Day has been a big issue in Ohio since that 2004 race, when the whole world waited for returns in Ohio to see who would win the White House, but those returns were delayed by logjams at the polls.
It’s remained a hot topic during the past three years because of fights at the Statehouse and in federal court over GOP laws aimed at reducing the early voting days Ohioans gained since 2004. It was front and center last week when a federal judge granted a permanent injunction preventing Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted from restricting or eliminating voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before all future elections.
Democrats inside and outside the state hailed the ruling by U.S. District Judge Peter C. Economus as “a win for all Ohioans” and a victory for greater ballot access.