Voter registrations rose after Obama visit

Kelsey Misbrener

The number of nonaffiliated voters rose by 727 after President Barack Obama’s visit to Kent, according to the Portage County Board of Elections.

In Ohio, you are only registered as a Democrat or Republican if you voted in the March primary. If you’ve never voted before or have not voted in a primary for a while, you are automatically registered as “Not Affiliated.”

“We’ve always had more nonaffiliated voters than affiliated. That’s never changed,” said Faith Lyon, director of the Portage County Board of Elections.

As of Oct. 22, out of the 108,287 total registered voters, 84,043 were not affiliated, according to the Portage County Board of Elections. Especially in a college town like Kent where students are constantly moving and graduating, the number of nonaffiliated voters is very high.

Right now, 4,233 more voters are registered as Republicans than Democrats. Usually, the Democrat registrations outnumber the Republican. Lyon said it’s fairly common for the party with the incumbent to have less support.

“If they feel their party is going to stay status quo, there’s not going to be a change, a lot of times they’ll switch over, vote the other party, and at least that way they have a say in the candidates,” Lyon said.

However, analyzing Democratic and Republican registrations can be a bit misleading.

The numbers shoot up at the primary because that’s the only time people can choose a political affiliation. They dip down closer to the general election because people move to different counties and update their information so they can vote for President.

“If you move out of Portage County, your voter history and everything moves with you now,” Lyon said.

Also when people move to Portage County, their information is added to the database. So the numbers are constantly changing. Nonaffiliated information changes too.

Before Obama’s visit on Sept. 26, the Board reported 82,187 not affiliated voter registrations. They have ten days to enter voter registration information into the database. People who registered the day Obama came and the next few days after would begin to show up in the Board’s Oct. 8 report, which showed an increase of 727 nonaffiliated voters.

The other four parties have fewer registered voters, so when one moves away, it’s very easy to tell.

The Libertarian Party had 39 registered voters on Sept. 25, but on Oct. 11, the number changed to 38.

Lyon said this year’s March primary was a little slow in comparison to 2008. The 2008 primary still didn’t have a very large turnout.

“But, you did see a big increase then in the general election,” Lyon said. “And we’re starting to see that increase now.”

“We’ve just surpassed the number of requests from ’08 for absentee ballots. But as far as in-person voting, we’re down,” Lyon said.

Kara Robinson, head of reference services at the university library, said more than 2,000 voter registration forms have passed through the library on their way to the Portage County Board of Elections. On Oct. 9 — the last day to register to vote — the library took in over 800 registrations.

Contact Kelsey Misbrener at [email protected].