Hamilton County sees increase in voter turnout

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In her 45 years serving as the Hamilton County clerk or working in the the clerk’s office, Kathy Williams has never seen a voter turnout quite like 2020’s.

Compared to the 2016 presidential election, Hamilton County saw a 7 percent increase in voter turnout. In 2016, of the county’ 230,786 registered voters, 104,441 cast ballots on Election Day; 11,463 voted by absentee ballot; and 42,132 voted early, for a voter combined voter turnout of 68 percent.

In 2020, of the county’s 260,082 registered voters, 53,147 voted on Election Day; 44,376 voted by absentee ballot; and 158,036 voted early, for a combined voter turnout of 75 percent.

Williams, who is in her second term as clerk, said the turnout is the largest she’s ever seen.

“I think it was the presidential election, yes,” she said. “Then the number of early voters had more to do with COVID-19 and people just wanting to get their vote counted.”

In a non-presidential election year, the county’s voter turnout is traditionally much lower. For a city election, turnout is typically between 10 and 12 percent. About 30 percent vote in county elections.

Although the clerk’s office expects a higher turnout for presidential elections, Williams said the office hired nearly double the staff it had for the 2016 election. Williams said the county hires a group to work early voting by staffing satellite locations and hires an additional group for Election Day made up of Republican and Democrats.

This year marks the second time it’s taken two days to count all the county’s votes, the first time being in the June primary election.

“In the primary, it stretched to two days, but before that, we’ve had years where we might still be counting until 1 or 2 in the morning,” Williams said. “But to physically go to the second day to finish counting, the first time was June.”

Election workers finished counting votes around 3 p.m. the second day for the June primary. For the general election, it took counters until 8 p.m. the second day to finish.

Although the 2020 election was Nov. 3, the clerk’s office is still busy.

“We just had a recount filed (Nov. 16),” Williams said. “It was for the Hamilton Southeastern Schools Delaware Township District, so we will have 71 precincts we will be recounting.”
Amanda Shera, the board member for that district, filed the recount. In the general election, Sarah Donsbach beat Shera by 20 votes, less than .05 percent.

Williams said anyone can file for a recount, but the cost to recount increases if the difference is more than 1 percent. Since the race between Shera and Donsbach was so close, Shera only paid $10 per precinct for a recount, totaling $710. If the difference is larger than 1 percent, those wanting a recount must pay $100 per precinct.

Williams commended staff on their perseverance throughout this year’s primary and general elections.

“We started with filing in January and never quit,” she said. “It’s been an incredible year for a lot of people who worked really, really hard to make it all work.”


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