In what was predicted to be a pivotal day of voting in the race for the presidency, Ohio was a crucial state of the four remaining Republican candidates.
For Republicans, Ohio houses 66 delegates. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is past the halfway point for solidifying the Democrat nomination, pressuring U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign to have a strong final Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, Clinton has 1,488 of the total 2,383 delegates required for the Democrat nomination. Clinton won Ohio in 2008 when she was on the ballot against then-Sen. Barack Obama.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich bested billionaire Donald Trump on the Republican side while Clinton easily outdistanced Sanders.
“Just how big candidates seem to be this year” brought first-time primary voter Stephen Griffith out to Hubbard Municipal Building to vote Tuesday evening.
“I wanted to make sure I got one who represents me this time,” he said.
Standing alongside greenhorns in today’s polling lines were longtime voters such as Vittorio Pace Jr., a Hubbard-area resident, who said he understands the importance of primary elections and votes “all the time.”
“You got the right to vote, take advantage of it,” he advised.
Poll workers and party officials generally reported a high voter turnout with more Republican voters overall in Trumbull County.
“It’s good for a primary; better than I’ve seen for any election in the past four years,” said Patty Baker, a member of the executive committee for the Democrat party.
Stephanie Penrose, director of Trumbull County’s Board of Elections, attributed a higher voting turnout to the previous primary election falling on an odd-numbered year and recent legislation allowing registered 17-year-olds to vote, provided they turn 18 before the November election.
“That’s the only thing that changed in the last year,” she said. “They’re all excited to come out and vote for president for the first time.”
She also mentioned a higher number of voters changing their respective parties than usual, mostly switching from Democrat to Republican.
Randy Law, chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party, said he has observed a similar political migration in the state housing traditionally more registered Democrats than Republicans.
“I think it’ll be higher on the Republican side this year,” he said. “The governor has driven some of that (as well as) party switches.”
He believes the switches coincide with the “very active” campaign efforts of Trump in Ohio.
“His people are very passionate, working very hard here,” Law said. “I think Trump probably will win Trumbull County.”
While Trumbull County Republicans facilitate the support of whomever its constituents are supporting, Law said he’s noticed the “sometimes not-so-underlying” sentiment of anger toward leaders in Washington, D.C., and “the establishment” — one of Trump’s major talking points throughout the presidential race.
Support for Kasich was strong throughout the state, Law added, but he predicts Kasich will have to “win big” to beat out Trump, whom he said seems to have capitalized on the frustration of residents over issues like employment and healthcare.
Local Republicans haven’t been the only ones witnessing the Trump campaign “phenomenon,” however, according to Trumbull County Democrat Party Chairman Daniel Polivka.
“Hillary has more of the unions behind her,” he said. “A lot of young college students are ‘feeling the Bern.’”
Polivka said he traveled to various polling places Tuesday and saw a higher primary election turnout than the last, but not quite as high as he expected by about 5 p.m., only two-and-a-half hours before polls closed. He said the Niles area saw large numbers while areas like Warren looked more moderate toward the evening.
In Mahoning County, many voters voiced opinions of voting being a right of passage, no matter the type of election.
At St. Brendan Catholic Church in Youngstown, voter Alexis Tillman said voting is a hard-earned right for women in the United States. Tillman, 31, said she votes in every election and even teaches her 11-year-old daughter about her right to vote.
“I explained to her how important it is, especially being an African American woman,” she said, “I tell her she can’t complain about changing something if she doesn’t do anything to try to change it.”
St. Brendan is among the busiest voting sites in the area, turning out all types of varying voters. According to James Vitez, 85, voters of this particular area attach a lot of history to their right to vote. Vitez served in the Korean War and has lived in the valley his entire life. His own service along with that of his two brothers and countless neighbors make voting a passionate right he takes very seriously.
“Millions of people in different countries don’t have the privilege. We have the privilege,” he said, “We should be proud and cherish it.”
Just as there were countless experienced voters out on Tuesday, many new voters came to the polls for the very first time. Mark Gayetski, a 23-year-old law student at the Ohio State University said younger voters are excited to have a voice and break voting records. He listed the economy as his number one big-issue topic, with foreign affairs following a close second. He believes he shares the sentiment with other young voters that candidates need to “get to what matters,” and focus in the months ahead.
“The debates are becoming more substantial, but the mudslinging is taking away from the issues.”
Youngstown State University freshman Jamie Rasor, 18, agrees that hostility among candidates is not the way to appeal to younger voters.
Rasor is a volunteer with the Mahoning County Young Republicans. She supports Kasich and said Trump’s rhetoric and low-blows make him unfit for the title of Republican candidate. In what was a Trump-Kasich battle in Ohio, Rasor believes, speaking before winners were announced, that Kasich’s experience and calm temperament will lead to a victory in his governing state.
“He runs a clean campaign,” she says, “ It’s just really refreshing to see any politician speak positively these days.”