Athens County had the lowest voter turnout of the past four years in this year's election.
On Election Day, about 26 percent of registered voters in the county voted.
“For being an off-year election, it’s not a bad turnout. When there’s state officials and federal officials involved, it gets more publicity,” Penny Brooks, Athens County Board of Elections deputy director, said. “When there’s a gubernatorial or a presidential, it brings more people out because it’s constantly in the news.”
During last year’s presidential election, about 66 percent of registered voters in the county voted. In the last local election in 2015, the voter turnout was about 37 percent, while in 2013 about 18 percent of registered voters cast votes.
“I figured we would have more voters than we did,” Brooks said. “You can never determine what’s going to bring them out. I thought with the state issues on the ballot and especially the city issues, it would bring more people out.”
Several races, levies, issues and ordinances were on the ballot this year including races for Athens City Council, state Issues 1 and 2, and The Athens Cannabis Ordinance.
About 2,600 people casted ballots for The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, which aims to decrease the incentive for Athens police officers to enforce marijuana laws by removing the fines and court costs offenders pay.
For state Issues 1 and 2, more than 11,000 people voted, and more than 6,000 people voted in Athens City Council’s at-large race.
Only about 11,746 of the 45,165 registered voters in the county voted, according to data from the Athens County Board of Elections.
In addition to voter turnout, the number of registered voters was also down this year. Athens County Board of Elections officials said that probably isn’t the result of a voting purge.
In Ohio, if a voter misses a federal election cycle, their local Board of Elections will send them a “confirmation card,” asking voters to confirm their address. If they miss another federal election, they are removed from the rolls.
Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said she’s “upset” by the perception that officials are removing people from voting rolls without cause, because voters have many opportunities to ensure their registration is up to date.
“It is the responsibility of the voter to keep up with their registration,” Quivey said. “It’s just like your driver’s license. You have to keep that up, and voters have to take responsibility for their voting.”