Sunny skies and warm temperatures were expected to greet voters across Highland County on Tuesday as they trekked to the polls to decide various municipal, township and school board races, along with weighing in on three statewide issues and a handful of local options.
Polling places were scheduled to be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The weather forecast called for sunny skies and temperatures in the lower 70s, making it a pleasant day for anyone who has not voted early to visit their local polling place.
Locally, the most high-profile race on the ballot was the Hillsboro mayoral race between incumbent Republican Drew Hastings and Democratic challenger Pam Limes. Both campaigns made last-minute door-to-door appeals over the weekend seeking every last vote.
Voters were also deciding village mayoral and council races, along with school board contests across Highland County, as well as township trustee and fiscal officer races. The Times-Gazette’s website, timesgazette.com, will provide election returns Tuesday evening.
Early voting wrapped up at 2 p.m. Monday, and a total of 1,682 ballots were cast or requested in Highland County in the month leading up to Election Day, including 796 Republicans, 266 Democrats and 620 non-affiliated voters, according to figures available on the election board’s website.
In Hillsboro, a total of 540 early votes were cast or requested, including 236 Republicans, 137 Democrats and 167 non-affiliated voters.
Volunteers and election officials began setting up local polling places late Monday. In Hillsboro, for the first time in a General Election, all voters regardless of precinct will cast their ballots at the Hillsboro Church of Christ at 155 W. Walnut St. A list of all polling places can be found at the Highland County Election Board website at highlandcountyelections.com.
High school seniors from all five local school districts are again participating in the “Youth at the Booth” program to help with this year’s election, said election workers Danny Long and Dave Shoemaker. They were working Monday afternoon with students from Greenfield McClain and Lynchburg-Clay to set up the Hillsboro polling place.
The goals of the program include involving youngsters in the election process and encouraging them to remain poll workers throughout their adult lives.
Meanwhile, voters in Highland County and across Ohio were set to decide three statewide issues, the most highly-publicized one determining whether to legalize marijuana, as reported Monday by the Associated Press.
Both sides of the debate were confident they’ll win, but the final results are difficult to gauge from polls and early voter turnout numbers.
ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee backing marijuana legalization measure Issue 3, has spent the past week touting the medical marijuana aspect of the proposed constitutional amendment while opponents have pushed back on those claims.
ResponsibleOhio has spent more than $6 million on TV commercials and started running several new ads in these final weeks of the campaign, including spots featuring former boy-band star Nick Lachey and basketball hall-of-famer Oscar Robertson. Those commercials don’t mention that Lachey and Robertson are among two dozen investors who will own the only 10 parcels of land where commercial marijuana could be grown under the amendment.
One commercial doesn’t even mention Issue 3, but rather tells viewers to vote “no” on Issue 2. Issue 2 is the legislature-sponsored “anti-monopoly amendment.” In addition to making it more difficult for future initiatives establishing monopolies or special economic benefits in the Ohio Constitution, Issue 2 contains a provision supporters say would nullify Issue 3 if both pass.
ResponsibleOhio Executive Director Ian James said lawmakers have punted on the issue of medical marijuana for 19 years, and Issue 3 does what the Statehouse won’t do.
Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies, the official “no” on Issue 3 campaign, held its own media blitz in the past week, hosting events with pediatricians and addiction specialists concerned Issue 3 would lead to more children accidentally ingesting cannabis and higher rates of addiction and abuse.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine used the bully pulpit to warn voters that edible marijuana products would wind up in the hands of children. Secretary of State Jon Husted, who oversees Ohio’s business registration services, said businesses that have trouble now finding employees who can pass a drug test would have an even harder time if the drug is legal.
Each campaign says internal polls show their side winning on Election Day, but independent polls said Ohioans are split down the middle. A University of Akron poll found 46 percent of registered Ohio voters favored Issue 3, 46 percent planned to vote against it, and 8 percent were undecided.
And the number of early voters thus far isn’t more than in recent odd-year elections. As of Oct. 23, 328,385 absentee ballot applications has been received and 148,550 absentee ballots had been cast by mail and in person. In 2011, 680,656 voters cast absentee ballots, largely driven by the Senate Bill 5 referendum on collective bargaining. In 2009, when the casino initiative appeared on the ballot, more than 664,000 absentee ballots were requested by mail and 613,503 absentee ballots were cast by mail and in person.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary. The Associated Press contributed to this story.