President Trump has repeated his concerns about mail-in voting, which Ohio has allowed as part of its no-fault early absentee voting for 14 years. The message not to vote by mail may be getting through to his supporters. But Democrats are requesting ballots in huge numbers.
Early voting doesn't begin until early next month, when voters can send back ballots by mail, drop them off in secure ballot drop boxes or vote in person at boards of elections.
An analysis of only mailed-in ballots from all of 2016 compared to absentee ballot applications sent in so far in 2020 shows requests from Democratic-affiliated voters are way ahead of those from voters affiliated with the Republican Party.
(Voters in Ohio aren’t registered with a party, but can be affiliated with the Democratic or Republican Party, or a voter can be unaffiliated. A voter is considered unaffiliated if there’s no record of that voter casting a partisan primary ballot for three years.)
In heavily Republican Warren County four years ago, three times as many Republicans as Democrats voted early by mail. This year, absentee ballots requested by Democratic and Republican voters are running about even.
But more than two times as many absentee ballot requests have been sent in by Democrats than the total that were mailed back four years ago. Among Republicans, the number who've requested absentee ballots so far is about half of the total from all Republicans ballots returned by mail in 2016.
In very red Delaware County, only 13 percent of all mailed-in ballots were from Democrats in 2016.
But so far, more than a third of all absentee ballots requests received this year are from Democrats, and only 20 percent are from Republicans.
The number of requests from Republicans is about 40 percent of the total of all ballots cast by mail in Delaware County in 2016. But the number from Democrats is more than twice those from Democrats who voted by mail four years ago.
Montgomery County swung to Trump in 2016, voting for a Republican for president for the first time since 1988.
But so far, Democrats are outpacing Republicans by almost two-to-one in absentee ballot requests. And already, Democrats have sent in 50 percent more absentee ballot requests than all of those mailed in by Democrats four years ago.
Erie County had voted for Democrats for president since 1988, but Trump won the county by more than 9 points in 2016, and won the state by 8 points. Erie was the state’s bellwether county – its overall vote most closely matched the overall statewide percentage total in 2016.
This year, Democrats have requested twice as many absentee ballots this year as Republicans have. And again, Democrats have already requested more absentee ballots than all the ballots Democrats mailed back four years ago. Republicans have requested just under 40 percent of the total that GOP voters returned by mail in 2016.
Most of the absentee ballot applications being returned are from unaffiliated voters, because most voters in Ohio are not affiliated with a political party.
This trend is similar to what's happening in other states with early mail-in voting, including North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania. Michigan is reporting the opposite; Republican absentee ballot requests are leading Democratic ones there.
It's unclear whether these Democratic voters are asking for early ballots because of concerns about coronavirus or delays in the postal system. And it's possible that Republicans are responding to President Trump's unfounded claims that voting by mail is problematic and are planning to cast ballots in person. But it suggests Democratic enthusiasm leading up to election day on November 3.