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Some of the races to watch in the Miami Valley this Election Day

A voter wearing a face mask at Cox Arboretum and Gardens in Dayton, Ohio sits at a table filling out her ballot. Her ballot is hidden to others by a partition that has a picture of the American flag and the word vote. There are masked poll workers in the background.
Leila Goldstein
A voter at Cox Arboretum and Gardens fills out a paper ballot.

Local races in the Miami Valley can take front and center in the minds of voters this election day, without presidential candidates on the ballot. WYSO reporter Leila Goldstein spoke with Grant Neeley, the chair of the political science department at the University of Dayton, about what is standing out to him in this year’s election. He said there are several unique aspects of races in the city of Dayton.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Grant Neeley: We've got a city commissioner running for an open seat as Mayor Whaley declared she wouldn't seek reelection. That's interesting. It's not often that you have an open seat election. And you've got a challenger who's basically a newcomer to the political process, not a newcomer to the city of Dayton, but a newcomer to the political process. Then you've got one incumbent seeking reelection and three other new candidates for that other city commission spot. The politics of who's the most partisan in a nonpartisan election has somehow come out.

I think also a really interesting development is the Dayton School Board election. There's four spots: one incumbent, only two other ones who've actually met the ballot, and all the rest are write-ins. We're going to end up with a write in candidate for the Dayton School Board.

Leila Goldstein: What's standing out for you in this election when it comes to local races?

Neeley: I think the biggest thing that stands out is some of this unique slating that we've seen going on in some races, notably school boards, which I think is fascinating. We've seen school boards in Centerville and Oakwood, where we've seen slates of candidates align themselves for the election. In both cases, we've seen a slate of three candidates which would give you a majority on a five member board.

I think that a lot of the issues at the school board right now are picking up on issues of both COVID as well as some of the diversity, equity and inclusion discussions that are going on. I think that those are being reflected in the school board elections and we're seeing some lines drawn there that maybe we haven't ever seen before.

Goldstein: What might have an impact on turnout in this off year election and what can we expect for overall voter turnout?

Neeley: If you look at our most comparable election, which is not really comparable because it's pre-COVID, but if we look back at the 2017 numbers for Montgomery County, we're right at 27% of registered voters, for Greene County 29%. That's pretty normal for local elections, small turnout. I think the question everyone's asking is, what's the impact of COVID going to be on that? Are people going to turn out in even fewer numbers?

Usually, local levies succeed pretty well in these off-year elections because it's not as many people voting. I looked back at the 2017 levy campaigns and most of them pass. It's a fairly supportive environment for local levies. Local schools, townships, fire districts, sewer and water districts, they live and die by levees. They have to have those for the services. It's really important to them. It's one of those rare instances in government where you get to actually attach, this money is going to go for this service. We don't have anything like that at the national or federal level where we know, my tax dollars on X thing are going to support this specific service.

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