Preliminary numbers show that Ohio’s voter turnout in the Nov. 4 midterm elections may be the state’s lowest ever, with only 3.15 million votes reported statewide, around 36.2 percent of eligible voters.
The big draw in this election was the gubernatorial race, between incumbent Republican John Kasich and Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive. FitzGerald’s campaign faced a number of controversies, lessening his viability as challenger and alienating many of his Democratic supporters. Because of this, and the lack of mobilizing statewide issues or other big name races, many Ohio voters didn’t make the effort to go to the polls.
“I don’t think people voted because they don’t realize how important non-presidential elections can be, or they are apathetic,” said Jennifer Meyer, president of the Case College Republicans. “It really bothers me that people don’t inform themselves and vote for what they believe in.”
Exit polls also showed that the voters skewed older, with 61 percent of voters aged 50 or older. The voters also skewed Republican.
“Democrats didn’t run on a really strong progressive agenda,” said Matthew Keri, treasurer of the Case Democrats. “Instead, a lot of them campaigned as mild Republicans. That kept a lot of Democrats away from the polls and didn’t win any Republicans over.”
“They made it so voters didn’t feel like they had a choice, which pushed up apathy,” he added.
Kasich, predictably, won the election with 64 percent of the vote, compared to FitzGerald’s 33 percent. Third party challenger Anita Rios of the Green Party received 3 percent of the vote.
2014’s turnout numbers are slightly below the 2002 election, the last gubernatorial election in the state without a Senate race. In 2002, 3.2 million voters went to the polls. With the addition of outstanding absentee and provisional ballots, it is possible that this year’s turnout could rise above 2002’s, although it is unlikely that it will be much higher.
Nationally, this election was one of the lowest in history, and the lowest turnout since World War II. Current reports list turnout around 36.3 percent, although that is not final. Ohio is not the lowest state in the nation, falling around the middle at number 32. Indiana, Texas and Utah fell at the bottom of the list, with around 28 percent of turnout, and Maine had the highest turnout with 59.3 percent. Republicans won control of the U.S. Senate, and kept their control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
On the CWRU campus, voter indifference was high, with many students unaware that an election was even happening at all.
“It wasn’t even so much that students were apathetic,” said Keri. “It was that the community as a whole was so apathetic that people didn’t even know the election was happening.”