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Athens County voter turnouts sees peak in federal election years

Athens County continually experienced lower voter turnout during local elections throughout the decade. 

Between 2010 and 2019, voter turnout spanned anywhere between 17.62% and 66.15%. The lowest voter turnouts were typically for elections where only local races were on the ballot.

On odd-numbered years, there are only local elections, Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said. That includes races in villages, within the city of Athens, races for town trustees and for board members. With no big, national races, odd-numbered years saw some of the lowest rates of voter turnout in Athens County.

Voter turnout reached a decade low in 2013. During the general election, the county only saw a voter turnout rate of 17.62%. Similarly, 2019 ended the decade with the second lowest voter turnout rate of 26.50%.

No local election year had a voter turnout rate of over 40%, according to data from the Athens County Board of Elections website. The voter turnout rate for odd-numbered years tends to fluctuate based on the races and ballot issues, Quivey said.

2015 had a 36.82% voter turnout rate, which was the highest rate of any odd-numbered election year. Quivey said that turnout was much higher that year due to City Council races in Nelsonville.

In that election, five candidates ran for the three available At-Large City Council positions. Highly contested races tend to bring out voters as does the city of Nelsonville, Quivey said.

“Nelsonville probably brought people out,” she said. “When Nelsonville goes to vote, they tend to have a pretty good turnout when it comes to their (City) Council.”

Even-numbered years where federal elections take place tend to have higher voter turnout and are some of the most memorable ones, Quivey said.

Will Hamilton, a second-year graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program, said he tries to vote in local elections and not just the national ones. 

“I try to vote in local election levels, if possible, because personally, I feel like that's where you make the most impact around you,” he said. “I don't know if the same would be true from my friends.”

The last election Hamilton voted in was the 2018 midterms, which had a voter turnout of about 51%, according to the Athens County Board of Elections website. 

“A lot of the people that I know from here also did go to undergrad here. So I think that those that vote would have registered here,” Hamilton said. “But I would say … most of my friends do vote.”

Quivey thinks that the 2020 general election will be one of the biggest elections the county has recently seen. The highest voter turnout rate of the decade was 66.15%, which was the general election in 2016.

The office always gets more ballots than they anticipate needing, and the new voting equipment used in the 2019 general election is ready to be used again next year.

The board now has 70 voting machines at its disposal, according to a previous Post report.

Athens County has kept using paper ballots throughout the decade and will continue to do so, Quivey said. 

Quivey also said issues with the equipment may pop up on Election Day, but the board is prepared for that, too.

“Mostly it will be something minor, something that doesn't work,” she said. “But we think we have that covered really well.”


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