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Nearly 185,000 ballots cast in early voting so far for Ohio's Aug. 8 election

Voters were lined up outside the early voting center in Franklin County in Columbus at lunchtime on July 11, 2023, the first day of early voting for the Aug. 8 special election.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Voters were lined up outside the early voting center in Franklin County in Columbus at lunchtime on July 11, 2023, the first day of early voting for the Aug. 8 special election.

Voters deciding an August amendment that would make it harder to pass future constitutional amendments have been voting early in-person and by mail in larger numbers than many initially expected.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s website shows as of July 21, 184,612 Ohioans have cast ballots for the Aug. 8 election, either in person or by mail. A total of 155,183 ballots were cast in the first week of early voting.

That’s a much bigger number than what was reported in last year’s August primary for legislative districts, when around 8% of registered voters cast ballots.

The only question on the ballot is Issue 1, which would raise to 60% the voter approval threshold for future constitutional amendments, such as one on abortion access likely before voters in November.

Related: Ohio voter guide: What to know about the August special election

It would also require groups putting forward amendments to gather signatures from all 88 counties. Currently, a simple majority is needed to pass constitutional amendments, and signatures have to be gathered from 44 counties.

It's hard to gauge how big that early voting number is. An August statewide vote on a constitutional amendment hasn’t happened since 1926.

Republicans who backed Issue 1 had said they expected a large turnout because of the attention that would be paid to this important constitutional change. But the weekend before early voting began, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he "wouldn't be surprised" if turnout was around the 8% from last year, though boards of elections had been reporting a steady stream of absentee voter applications.

The conventional wisdom is more Democrats tend to take advantage of early voting, and Republicans, following the lead of former President Trump, have been openly critical of it. But this year, Ohio Republican Party chair Alex Triantafilou said the GOP has been advising its voters to cast early ballots.

“We even have a slogan: 'It’s ok to vote that way'," Triantafilou said.

Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters said voters against Issue 1 are motivated to go to the polls to vote against it.

“I think that they are outraged that Republicans in the Ohio State House are trying to take away our voice and our freedoms," Walters said.

In the first week of early voting for last year’s primary for state lawmakers, which wasn’t a statewide vote, 44,407 absentee ballots had been requested and 6,239 ballots had been cast.

Many Ohio counties are still looking for poll workers for Aug. 8.

In the meantime, Ohioans can vote in person at the local county early vote center weekdays until Aug. 6. The weekend before Election Day, Aug. 5-6. are the only non-weekday voting days of this special election.

Absentee ballot applications must be postmarked by Aug. 1, and must be returned with a postmark no later than Aug. 7. They must be received by Aug. 12 to be counted. Ballots returned in person are due at boards of elections by 7:30pm on Aug. 8.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.