COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s role as a bellwether for the nation remains in play this year after Democrat Joe Biden mounted a strong challenge to Republican President Donald Trump for the state’s 18 electoral votes.
The former vice president stepped up media spending as early voting began in October, even as Trump’s campaign pulled back on some spending in the state. Trump won a surprisingly decisive 8-percentage-point victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.
No one has been elected president without carrying Ohio since 1960, and no Republican has ever been elected without Ohio.
The AP VoteCast survey found that 3 in 5 Ohio voters said the U.S. is on the wrong track, while 2 in 5 said the nation is headed in the right direction. The survey included 3,767 voters and 700 nonvoters in Ohio, conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
About half of Ohio voters think the coronavirus is not at all under control in this country. The state is among those experiencing new increases in cases and deaths.
Secretary State Frank LaRose touted Ohio’s response to a variety of glitches and other incidents on Election Day as the state set voter turnout records.
The day began with an issue when election officials at Franklin County, the state’s most populous, made the decision to shift to paper pollbooks system-wide to check-in voters when officials were unable to fully upload voter data into the electronic versions. The decision led to an increase in wait times for voters but did not appear to impact the actual vote count, according to LaRose’s office.
“Franklin County needed to make that decision this morning and at 5:30 a.m., they were ready to switch over to that,” LaRose said Tuesday afternoon. “That was because of the contingency planning that we did working with our county boards of elections to make sure that we had a backup plan in place.”
At an American Legion Post in the Cleveland suburb of Parma, 44-year-old carpet installer Joe Gall said he voted for Trump, after voting for Clinton four years ago. Gall said he’s made more money this year than he has ever had, and he thinks the country has handled the pandemic as best it could.
“No one knows what to do,” he said. “It’s as good as it could be given the situation with everything shutting down and people afraid to go out.”
Lisa Factora-Borchers, 41, a writer from Worthington, said she voted in person Tuesday to ensure her vote for Biden was counted, and spent more time walking to her polling place than inside it.
“I consider Donald Trump the biggest threat to democracy and to the future of this country,” Factora-Borchers said, adding that she was voting against Trump as “a matter of human decency.”
Elections officials had reported record early turnout during the pandemic, with polls forecasting a toss-up presidential race.
Democrats also saw opportunities to cut into a 12-4 Republican advantage in the U.S. House delegation, which has held steady since GOP-controlled redistricting took hold in 2012. Public health professional Kate Schroder was in a tight race with 12-term Republican Rep. Steve Chabot in the Cincinnati area’s House District 1, with Democratic challengers within range in a handful of other House races with GOP incumbents.
The nation’s longest serving woman in Congress led the way as all four of Ohio’s Democratic House incumbents handily won reelection in early, unofficial returns. Rep. Marcy Kaptur won her 19th term from northern Ohio, Rep. Marcia Fudge her sixth from the Cleveland area, Rep. Tim Ryan his fifth from the Youngstown area, and Rep. Joyce Beatty her fourth from the Columbus area.
On the Republican side, Rep. Jim Jordan, a fiery conservative supporter of Trump in Congress, won his 8th term from northwest-central Ohio, and Rep. Warren Davidson, who succeeded former House Speaker John Boehner in his western Ohio district by winning a 2016 special election, won his third full term. Republican Reps. Bob Gibbs, Bill Johnson and Bob Latta also easily won reelection.
Republicans were considered likely to hold on to their control of the Statehouse. Democrats drew hope from Republican then-House Speaker Larry Householder’s July indictment on federal bribery charges that could at least to cut into their veto-proof supermajorities in the state Senate (24-9) and House (61-38). Republicans ousted Householder from the speakership July 30 but he remained on the ballot.
Sewell reported from Cincinnati. Contributing to this report were Associated Press reporters Mark Gillispie in Cleveland, and Farnoush Amiri, a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.