NECIC views informed and engaged voter turnout as essential building blocks for a healthy community. As this year's election coverage sponsor, they invite you to learn about their transformative efforts in Mansfield's North End at www.necic-ohio.org.
MANSFIELD — Richland County Board of Elections Director Matt Finfgeld missed by about five percentage points on his prediction by of voter turnout on Tuesday.
“I was a little optimistic,” he said with a laugh on Wednesday morning, agreeing that perhaps local voters were not as fired up as larger, more urban counties that poured out in support of the two statewide issues on the ballot.
“I would agree with that, especially with both of them not passing in Richland County,” he said.
Finfgeld estimated 55 to 60 percent participation in the Nov. 7 election, given a large slate of local candidates and tax issues, and two statewide issues on abortion rights and marijuana legalization.
Instead, that county-wide number was 49.72 percent as 40,718 voters cast ballots in a county that has 81,889 registered to participate.
In the City of Mansfield, that percentage dropped off as 39.97 percent of 28,649 registered voters cast ballots.
If you count the votes outside the City of Mansfield, the percentage of voter participation climbs to 62.8 percent (33,435 out of 53,240).
You can check all of the Richland Source election coverage by clicking here.
Local voter particpation improved
Still, there was discernible improvement in voter participation on Tuesday than in the last few municipal election cycles, dating back to 2007.
Finfgeld pointed to school tax issues in the Madison Local School District and the Lucas Local School District, as well as two judge seats open on the Mansfield Municipal Court.
“I am not sure in history when we have had both those seats coming open at the same time with voters knowing they were electing two new judges,” Finfgeld said. “Plus, you had new city-wide positions in the City of Mansfield being elected.”
The Board of Elections team on Wednesday morning was already busy trying to work its way through about 1,700 ballots that contained write-in candidates. Two of the three Mansfield City School board candidates, for example, were write-ins.
“We were trying to get through the early and absentee write-in ballots last night (when the polls closed). We had four, two-person teams working on them. But it was getting late to get that initial (vote) total released, so we just stopped.
“If we had to skip those write-in races in order to get (early/absentee) results out in a reasonable time, that’s what we we decided to do,” Finfgeld said.
“We have a team working on them now and we will hopefully have it wrapped up by tomorrow,” he said. “We definitively don’t want to drag it out any longer than it needs to.”
The local elections board had all results counted and released by around 11 p.m., save for the write-in candidates.
The bipartisan, four-member elections board will meet Nov. 15 to certify provisional and late absentee ballots postmarked by Nov. 6 that arrive within four days of Election Day.
“We had 113 absentee ballots arrive today,” Finfgeld said Wednesday.
The board will meet Nov. 17 to certify the election. Once that is done, any races close enough to require an automatic recount (1/2 of 1 percent) will be scheduled.
Both statewide issues failed in Richland County
Part of the reason for less-than-projected participation may have been less interest in the two statewide issues. Both passed by wide margins with deep support in larger, more urban areas.
Both failed in Richland County.
State Issue 1, which enshrines abortion rights in the Ohio Constitution, was rejected by Richland County voters, 57.5 percent to 42.4 percent (22,802-16,810).
State Issue 2, which legalizes adult marijuana usage in Ohio, also failed in Richland County, but not by nearly as much, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent. There were 19,885 votes against and 19,568 in favor, a difference of just about 300 votes.
Voter participation countywide and the City of Mansfield in 2023 were improvements over municipal election cycles.
This year was a vast improvement over 2019 when 25.7 percent of countywide voters participated and just 26.38 percent in the city.
New Mayor-elect Jodie Perry received 7,283 votes Tuesday — or only about 200 or so less than the total number of city votes in 2019.
This year was also better than 2015 when 45.8 percent of voters countywide cast ballots and 37 percent of the voters in the City of Mansfield.
It was also slightly better than in 2011 when 47 percent of countywide voters participated, including 39.6 percent of voters in the City of Mansfield.
In addition, it was better than in 2007 when 33.9 percent of county voters cast ballots, including 36.7 percent in the city.
Voter participation in the city’s 4th and 6th wards also showed improvement, albeit slight, over recent municipal election cycles. Both had contested races for Mansfield City Council.
In the 4th Ward, 27.58 percent of registered voters cast ballots (1,309 of 4,746). That compares favorably to 2019 (17.86 percent), 2015 (24.8) and 2011 (25.6).
In the 6th Ward, 30.02 percent of voters participated Tuesday. That’s up from 2019 (19.41 percent), 2015 (29.6) and 2011 (27.6).
For those keeping track, the 2024 primary election is scheduled March 19 due to it being a presidential election year — just about four months away.