CLEVELAND – The lines and rallies outside the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on the first day of early voting in Ohio were impressive. When all is said and done, the first day in-person turnout there will likely be three to four times the 558 people we saw on the first day of early voting in 2008.
That being said, remember that the overall number of people who turned out early in Cuyahoga County to vote at the board in 2008 was 54,324. That comes to an average of nearly 1,600 a day, for the 34 days leading up to Election Day.
The difficulty in surpassing those numbers this year, despite the impressive day one stats, lies in the restrictions placed on early voting this year.
In 2008, the hours for in-person voting were from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday with additional hours of 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
This year, there are no weekend hours scheduled at this point. That will likely soon change for the last weekend before the election. Weekday hours are limited to 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Oct. 19. The exception is Tuesday, Oct. 9, the last day to register when the board will be open until 9 p.m.
They expand on Monday, Oct. 22 through Thursday, Nov. 1 to 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The changes were made by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted to ensure uniform hours across the state’s 88 county Boards of Elections.
The interesting statistic to come out of the 2008 race though was in the final tally. Though enthusiasm was high among the early voters, who at times wrapped around the block to vote early for Barack Obama, it didn’t necessarily make all that much of a difference when compared to four years earlier.
In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry got 448,503 votes in Cuyahoga County on a rainy Election Day before expanded early voting was an option. With early voting in 2008 Barack Obama got 458,422 votes, a 10,000 vote difference.
Obama’s strong margin of victory in Cuyahoga County, 258,442, was nearly equal to his margin of victory in the state, 262,224.
That’s a margin the Obama campaign will be looking to protect in Cuyahoga County and the Mitt Romney campaign looking to cut into, much the way Gov. John Kasich was against then Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010. In that race, Strickland’s margin of victory in Cuyahoga County was a mere 102,640, which wasn’t enough to offset Republican margins elsewhere in the state ,giving Kasich a 77,127 vote victory.
And in that election 47.7 percent of Cuyahoga County voters voted early.