Ohio Republicans will seek to retain their hold on every branch of state government this Election Day as Democrats look to a competitive U.S. Senate race as a possible pickup.
The top race has Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan facing Republican JD Vance for the chance to succeed the GOP’s Rob Portman, who’s retiring. Ryan, a 10-term congressman from the blue-collar Mahoning Valley, has raised more than three and a half times the Donald Trump-endorsed Vance, a venture capitalist and author of the best-selling “Hillbilly Elegy.” Vance has relied heavily on a cash infusion from Senate Republican leadership, while Ryan also has appealed to national Democrats to help him to the finish line.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is going for a second term against Democrat Nan Whaley, the former mayor of Dayton. Whaley has struggled to gain traction against the 75-year-old DeWine. Already well-known, DeWine became a household presence during months of daily briefings at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, he helped break ground on a huge new Intel computer chip facility.
Most of Ohio’s U.S. House seats under a legally disputed temporary map are considered safe for incumbents, including that of Republican Rep. Jim Jordan, a pro-Trump bulldog. Two incumbents — Democrat Marcy Kaptur in Toledo, and Republican Steve Chabot in the Cincinnati area — are in tough races due to the new lines. Also drawing attention is the race for Ryan’s open seat in northeast Ohio’s 13th District, which includes Akron. Democratic state Rep. Emilia Sykes, from a prominent local political family, faces former Trump campaign staffer Madison Gesiotto Gilbert for the seat. Ohio loses one seat in Congress this year due to lagging population growth.
The Ohio Supreme Court has declared both the new congressional map and new legislative maps unconstitutional due to partisan gerrymandering that favors Republicans. That fight has been among issues to energize the race for an open chief justice position between Justices Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, and Sharon Kennedy, a Republican. Democrats view Brunner, a former secretary of state, as among their stronger pickup prospects in a former bellwether state that twice elected Trump by eight percentage points. Party labels are being listed in Ohio judicial races for the first time this year.
Among statehouse races, all eyes are on a bid by same-sex marriage icon Jim Obergefell, a Democrat, against incumbent GOP state Rep. D.J. Swearingen for House District 89, a northern Ohio lakeshore district that leans strongly Republican.
In Columbus, unopposed Democrat Munira Abdullahi is poised to become the first Somali American and the first Muslim woman elected to the Ohio General Assembly, a historic moment for the state with the second-largest Somali population in the United States behind Minnesota. Democrat Ismail Mohamed, a lawyer running for District 3, could be the first Somali and Muslim man in the Legislature, should he win against his Republican opponent, J. Josiah Lanning.
Ohio voters also will be asked to decide to statewide ballot issues involving whether to prohibit noncitizen voting and whether judges should be required to consider a criminal suspect’s threat to public safety when setting bail.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
How Ohio Votes
Ohio primaries are open to all registered voters. People who are incarcerated are barred from voting, but people on parole or probation may vote. Voters who have failed to respond to address confirmation or not updated registration and who have not voted at least once in four consecutive years that include two federal general elections are removed. The deadline for mail ballots is Nov. 18 for domestic and overseas voters.
Ohio routinely counts a little more than 2 percent of votes in the days after Election Day, which should only delay race calls in the closest races. In the 2020 general election, 2.6% of votes were counted after Election Day. In 2018, before the pandemic, 2.7% were counted later. Most late-counted votes in both elections were provisional ballots.
Ohio has mandatory recounts for statewide elections in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.25% points or fewer. The state has mandatory recounts for U.S. House and other district races in which the margin is 0.5% points or less. The AP may call a statewide or U.S. House race in which the margin between the top two candidates is 0.5% or less, if we determine the lead is too large for a recount to change the outcome. Candidates can request and pay for recounts in races with larger margins.
The AP will not call down-ballot races on election night if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 2% or if the leading candidate is within 2% of the 50% runoff threshold. The AP will revisit those races later in the week to confirm there aren’t enough outstanding votes left to count that could change the outcome.
What Else Should I Know?
Q: What Did We Learn From the Primary?
A: Ryan got about 15,000 more votes than Vance in the primary, but far more Republican votes were cast. While Vance took part in a vicious, seven-way Republican primary, Ryan sailed to victory against two lesser known challengers. Final results showed about 510,000 people voted in the Democratic primary, compared to more than 1 million who voted Republican.
Q: What’s Changed Since the Pandemic Election of 2020?
A: Secretary of State Frank LaRose used his executive power to limit secure ballot drop boxes to one per county, despite court challenges by Democrats in 2020 that clarified the elections chief may expand their number and location without legislative approval. A sweeping package of election law changes addressing that and a host of other issues that arose in 2020 is stalled at the Ohio Statehouse, otherwise leaving most election laws as they were.
Q: What Do Turnout and Advance Vote Look Like?
A: As of Oct. 25, requests for early in-person and absentee ballots totaled 1,076,049, a 1.8% increase over the same point in 2018, the last time statewide elections were held. Of that total, 135,889 Ohioans had voted early in person, while 940,160 had requested an absentee ballot by mail.
Q: How Long Does Counting Usually Take?
A: Ohio counted 90% of its 2020 GE votes by 11:05 p.m. ET on Nov. 3, and all counties reported counting 100% of ballots by 4:45 a.m. ET the day after.
Q: What Are the Pitfalls With Early Returns?
A: Early returns in Ohio tend to favor Democratic candidates who benefit from voters casting advance votes, either absentee or via early in-person voting.
Q: What Happens After Tuesday?
A: The election team resumes its tabulation, reaching out to counties for reports of the ballots that were tabulated after election night. Any races left uncalled on Nov. 8 will be called, if possible, as additional votes come in.