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Early voting numbers spike in Hamilton County ahead of 2018 midterms

Posted at 7:41 PM, Nov 02, 2018

CINCINNATI -- The line of voters that snaked through the Hamilton County Board of Elections headquarters Friday evening was the longest director Sherry Poland had seen yet in the run-up to the 2018 midterms.

She expects the lines that form in the run-up to Nov. 6 to be even longer.

"We're a society of procrastinators," she said. "We wait 'til the last minute. The final days are always our busiest."

These final days, however, have been busier than usual. The 16,000 in-person votes the board had processed by the time it closed its doors Thursday night represented a more-than-500 percent increase over the number placed at the same time in the 2014 midterms.

Typically, she added, turnout for a midterm election clocks in between 40 and 45 percent of eligible voters. The 2018 midterms could easily draw 55 percent.

It's more than a local phenomenon, according to reporters with the Associated Press. More than 30 million Americans had voted early, either in person or via absentee ballot, by Friday. Some of the most significant upticks in participation were in states unused to competitive midterms, including deep-red Tennessee and Georgia.

In states that require party registration, Democrats have cast 41 percent of the early ballots, compared to 36 percent for Republicans. Party strategists on both sides say they are far exceeding their usual numbers in key locales -- urban strongholds for Democrats and more rural counties for Republicans.

However, the party analysis isn't always an indicator of final outcome. Neither are predictions such as those made by polling analysis firm FiveThirtyEight, which forecasts Democrats to take the House and Republicans to retain their control of the Senate. If the 2016 presidential election taught the nation anything, it's that surprises can happen anywhere.

Although the lines at the Hamilton County Board of Elections might be overwhelming over the weekend and on Monday, Poland said there's an upside: A large number of early voters means the crush on Election Day itself might be a little less crushing.