Portsmouth’s liberal 2nd Ward hit by low turnout rates

The Republicans took home big wins on Tuesday, Nov. 3, but that wasn’t the case in Portsmouth’s 2nd Ward. Photo by Patrick Keck.

PORTSMOUTH — As the country awaits the results of the Presidential Election, some sense can be made of how the chips fell in Scioto County.

The Republicans enjoyed a successful Nov. 3, taking home victories in all races with candidates, the sole exception being Judge Jennifer Brunner’s win in the Ohio Supreme Court race.

As substantial as these victories were, it would be wrong to say that all 77 county voting precincts went red. Following trends from past elections, Portsmouth’s 2nd Ward heavily supported Joe Biden and local Democratic candidates Tuesday.

Biden received 303 votes compared to 214 for President Donald Trump in the ward, who ultimately won more than 70% of the county vote and took Ohio as well. Trump added nearly 1,400 more votes in the county from the 2016 election.

Damaging to these candidates however were very low turnout rates in the ward’s three precincts, including parts of Shawnee State University and Portsmouth City Schools.

While the county’s turnout rate of 68.18% fell in-line with past presidential elections, the same could not be said of the fifth county voting precinct. This precinct saw its rate fall to 35.15% with 161 of its 458 voters casting ballots, down from 43.47% in 2016 and 47.69% in 2012.

Precincts four and six, also in the 2nd Ward, had similar turnout rates as in the past, but turnout rates of 40.22% and 50% respectively were also beneath the 2016 rate.

Representing the ward on city council, Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon said turnout could be improved by having a closer voting location for her constituents. Precincts four and five vote at the Cornerstone United Methodist Church, but the 6th Precinct votes at the Hudson House which is outside of the ward’s boundaries.

“It’s a stretch for people to get to the polling places,” said Gordon, also a registered Democrat. “If we could put another place out further into the district, it would certainly help voter turnout since it would be more accessible.”

Still, below the county turnout rate, Gordon said the 6th Precinct’s turnout of 50% was likely the highest in the ward due to events put on by the 14th Street Community Center which allowed guests to register to vote on the spot.

Over the past three presidential elections and two midterm races, the ward has vehemently backed Democratic candidates. Most registered voters have non-partisan ballots, but more in the three precincts receive Democratic ones according to the Scioto County Board of Elections.

While the county has voted for the Republican presidential candidate in those elections, the 2nd Ward supported President Barack Obama in 2012, Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Biden a few days ago.

In 2012, Mitt Romney squeaked out a victory in the county by just above 400 votes. Obama however won by a landslide in the 2nd Ward, taking 65% of precinct four, 87% of precinct five, and 63% of precinct six.

Even when Trump had a sizable victory in 2016 and 2020, the Democratic candidate flipped the table and sizable victories of their own. This trend is beyond just the presidency, but also in U.S. Congressional and Ohio General Assembly races, and county and city elections.

Nowhere is this more apparent than the 5th Precinct, who in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections and the 2018 midterm always voted for the Democratic candidate. Of the 27 races in those years where the candidate’s political affiliation was seen on the ballot, all 27 Democrats carried the 2nd Ward.

Local Democrats like Jaime Castle, Ryan Ottney, John McHenry, and Matt Seifert experienced similar victory margins as Biden’s this year and would also lose the county vote in their respective races. Seifert had the widest margin in the ward, receiving 307 votes to Commissioner Mike Crabtree’s 197, yet lost to Crabtree by more than 10,000 collectively.

Its position in and around the SSU campus makes for an area of great socioeconomic diversity said Gordon, which she feels contributes to the area’s support of the Democrats. The higher levels of education in the ward also hold a part in this trend, she feels, the Pew Research Center finding that 52% of college graduates identified as Democrats and 40% as Republicans in a 2015 study.

“I like how diverse it is socioeconomically,” said Gordon of the ward. “It could just be like-minded people who have decided to live near each other and share values.”

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at pkeck@aimmediamidwest.com, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.© 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.