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Primary elections are over, so what's going to be on the ballot for the midterms?

Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau

Jim Gaines is the statehouse bureau chief for the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News newspapers. In this interview with WYSO’s Jerry Kenney, he talks about voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary and what voters will face in the November midterms.

Transcript (edited lightly for length and clarity):

Jim Gaines - Turnout was expected to be low and it was. The early voting results that the Secretary of State's office has posted showed that primary turnout was under 8%. I haven't seen total for each party yet, but Ohio tends to vote about 54% Republican, 46% Democrat. So you'd think even in a low interest primary, that'll be fairly close or with a slight Republican edge. Yet in this primary, Democrats outvoted Republicans by about 25%. Now, of course, that's only a tiny fraction of the votes cast, about one in four of them, and again only about 8% overall voter turnout. So I don't know if you can really call that a trend, but nonetheless, it did seem surprising for this primary. You have to wonder what's driving that: one suggestion is that it was the Supreme Court's overturn of Roe versus Wade, which Democrats may be counting on that to drive turnout in the national elections and also in Ohio this fall.

Jerry Kenney - So keeping that in mind, as we head into the midterms, there are plenty of issues and candidates that people will likely be paying a lot more attention to, right?

Jim Gaines - Yes. In the November elections, you've got a lot more on the ballot. You have the statehouse seats that we just had the primary for, of course but you've also got all the statewide offices. You've got election for Governor and Secretary of State and State Auditor and Attorney General. In terms of the most high profile races, you have the race for Governor: which is between incumbent Mike DeWine, who's Republican and the former mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley as the Democratic nominee. You've got a Senate race: former U.S. Representative Tim Ryan on the Democratic side, and you've got J.D. Vance on the Republican side, both of whom are seeking to replace outgoing Republican Senator Rob Portman.

You've also got U.S. congressional races. After the 2020 census, Ohio had to lose one of its 16 U.S. House seats. So now there's elections for just 15. In the new redrawn districts, at least part of the Miami Valley, is in four districts: the 1st, the 8th, the 10th and the 15th. You've got Republican incumbents defending their seats in all of those.

Jerry Kenney - At the state level, what else do you think voters will need to pay attention to in the upcoming midterms?

Jim Gaines - There are Supreme Court justice elections. Three of the seven seats, including the chief justiceship, are up this time. There are two people, both women and both current Supreme Court justices running for the chief justiceship. The Democrat is Jennifer Brunner and the Republican is Sharon Kennedy. You've got two other seats also up for election on the Ohio Supreme Court as well—both Republican incumbents seeking to stay on the court.

There are also two state constitutional amendments on the ballot. One would basically forbid non-citizens from voting in Ohio state or local elections. The other would change the language in the Ohio Constitution about the requirements for bail. Opponents of these amendments say that they're inclusion on the ballot this fall is calculated—they're both kind of red meat for the Republican base to drive turnout on that side.

The voting referendum is actually due to the situation in Yellow Springs. Back in 2019, Yellow Springs passed a local referendum to let non-citizen permanent residents vote just in their local elections. But Ohio Secretary of State Frank Rose, a Republican, stepped in in 2020 to prevent any resident non-citizens from voting. The thing is, the Ohio State Constitution, like many states, does not explicitly say that non-citizens can't vote. Non-citizens can't vote in federal elections, that was made illegal in 1996, but local and state elections are a bit of a different story.

Then we've got bail reform. Now, there have been bipartisan bail reform bills in the legislature for a while, House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 22. The amendment, which is going to be on the ballot, is, again, a Republican backed amendment. It wouldn't set any minimums or maximums. It would really do nothing to cash bail per se. It would specifically mandate that courts consider public safety, the person's criminal record, the likelihood that they flee before trial, and seriousness of their offense in calculating bail. Opponents of the amendment say that those things are already considered in the pretrial detention hearing process, separate from the bail system. So opponents argue that this supposed bail reform wouldn't really do anything.

Jerry began volunteering at WYSO in 1991 and hosting Sunday night's Alpha Rhythms in 1992. He joined the YSO staff in 2007 as Morning Edition Host, then All Things Considered. He's hosted Sunday morning's WYSO Weekend since 2008 and produced several radio dramas and specials. In 2009 Jerry received the Best Feature award from Public Radio News Directors Inc., and was named the 2023 winner of the Ohio Associated Press Media Editors Best Anchor/News Host award. His current, heart-felt projects include the occasional series Bulletin Board Diaries, which focuses on local, old-school advertisers and small business owners. He has also returned as the co-host Alpha Rhythms.