LIMA — While the promise of a “blue wave” foretold by national commentators failed to materialize for Allen County, voter turnout by precinct show the region at least moved toward purple.
A review of county election results by the Lima News revealed that when compared to past midterms, Democrats came to the polls in higher numbers than both the 2010 and 2014 midterms, but Republicans didn’t shy away from the fight.
Lima precincts that historically lean left — those throughout south, east and central Lima — saw a 38 percent increase in turnout. In comparison, right-leaning precincts matched the enthusiasm with a 28 percent increase. But despite the gains made by Democrats, they failed to turn a single seat throughout Allen, Putnam and Auglaize counties due to the heavy conservative majorities seen throughout the area.
“We had a record number of volunteers, and it helped move the needle. Overall, I am disappointed in the outcome, but I’m very optimistic of the future.” Allen County Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Rex said. “We had a lot of Democrats saying they can’t be idle anymore, they can’t be quiet anymore.”
In general, the region’s voting patterns show a concentration of Democratic voters in higher-density population precincts with each voting bloc shading farther to the right depending on its distance from city and village centers. Areas without much population, such as townships in Putnam and Auglaize counties, voted overwhelmingly along Republican party lines with some precincts settling more than 80 percent of the final tally on Republican candidates.
Turnout also tended to be higher by percentage in precincts outside of city centers.
“I’m pleased with the efforts of our volunteers,” Allen County Republican Chairman Keith Cheney said. “We stayed the course with the plan we had, and the results, I think they pretty well speak for themselves.”
Prior the election, Cheney said Allen County Republicans had three major get out the vote rallies — including a keynote event featuring Donald Trump Jr. — that helped the party clinch their wins.
Another unique aspect of the region’s midterm election revealed by a review of voter numbers was a higher than average absentee voting in 2018 compared to the last midterm. In Allen County, over 9,600 voters turned in absentee ballots with a higher percentage of registered Democrats, 27 percent, choosing the option to cast their vote early when compared to the percentage of registered Republicans, 20 percent, doing the same.
Jennifer Walton, chair and professor of communications and media studies at Ohio Northern University, said the 2018 midterm election was unique in the enthusiasm generated by both parties in order to “get out the vote.” While Democrats tend to do better in elections with higher voter turnout, Walton said the rallying of the Republican base — especially appeals made to die-hard supporters of President Donald Trump — was an effective counter.
“(Trump) was on the road more than he was in Washington,” Walton said. “And he would say a vote for my candidate is a vote for me.”
Outside of the standard political rally, Walton said she also saw more corporate advertisements than normal pushing for higher voter turnout in the 2018 election. In general, private interests rely on campaign financing to influence the political conversation, but major companies, such as Walmart, PayPal and Lyft, all used their brands to get out the vote.
“The messaging was fascinating this time around,” Walton said. “I’d never seen so much enthusiasm around a midterm.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.