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Ohio, a swing state which Obama won in 2012, voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016. This election, the Biden campaign seems to have made some inroads in winning some of that lost support, reverting the state to a swing state. Paul Beck, professor emeritus in the department of political science at The Ohio State University joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the state’s political landscape.
Just a few weeks ago, and a couple of hours northeast of here, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden squared off in their first, and so far only, debate at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
Ohio has historically been the quintessential swing state. And I recently sat down with Paul Beck, professor emeritus of political science at The Ohio State University. I began by asking him why this swing state was not so close in 2016.
The last presidential election, Ohio didn't seem nearly as much of a battleground state as it has in the past.
Why has it heated up again now?
Well, I think it's come back to normal.
Clinton was not a particularly good candidate for Ohioans, and that was pretty clear. And you can see the evidence of that. She lost support from what Obama had had in rural areas, in Appalachia. There was lower turnout in the Cleveland area, largely among African-Americans. And so, there were all of these hits to the Democratic ticket in 2016 that I don't think are going to be there. In fact, the polls are showing they're not there in 2020.
Biden, I think, appeals both to urban Ohioans, you know, kind of white workers, males and females, more to females than the males. He appeals to people in the rural areas and small towns. Not that he's going to win a majority there, but what he will do is pick up maybe an added a 10 or 15 percent above what Clinton was able to do back in 2016.
And you're already seeing a tremendous amount of energy at the polls.
Absolutely. Now, you never know what that means. Is it just regular voters who are moving up their votes?
But don't want to be in the long line on election day.
Yeah. And, you know, there could be some of that. But I think the estimates are that maybe two-thirds of Ohio voters will vote absentee. Some of them going to the early voting sites, which is also an absentee vote, but it's an absentee in-person vote and that's very different than it was in 2016.
And I think we'll never go back. I think people will get used to absentee voting and they'll like it. So I think we're seeing, you know, really kind of a change, a major change in how people vote.
Here we are in an important year. And the census counting has been shortened. These are big consequences for the next 10 years for this state.
In Ohio, the rural areas are losing population. The urban areas and particularly the suburbs are gaining in population that may get registered in the census, but it may not. And I don't think we really know for sure what's going to happen.
Ohio, under ordinary circumstances, would lose a seat. And that then means that every district has to be redrawn. And the question is, who redraws the districts? And we've changed through several ballot initiatives how we actually do the redistricting. And it may well be that it'll be more balanced than it was 10 years ago when the Republican legislature and Republican Apportionment Board really was the one that controlled the redistricting. And Ohio was heavily gerrymandered.
So what are you watching for on election night?
I'm going to go to bed earlier than I normally do because I don't think things are going to be resolved on election night. And we're really talking about, I think, 13 states and two congressional districts that are battlegrounds.
Now, about half of the battlegrounds are in states where there are going to be absentee votes that are cast after the day before the election that may not get counted on Election Day or at least folded into those totals.
Ohio is one of them. So in Ohio, if an absentee ballot comes in after Election Day, it can still be counted for up to 10 days. And then, to top that off, Ohio doesn't release its official results until November the 24th, three weeks later. And, of course, if the election is really close nationwide and Ohio is a pivotal state, we just have to wait for that result.
Ohio is unusual. Both states are going to count their ballots earlier than that. But there are a few that are going to be late counts.
Paul Beck, thanks so much.
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