Cuyahoga County sees huge increase in vote-by-mail requests weeks before November election

Election officials ask to avoid sending duplicate requests
Posted at 2:36 PM, Aug 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-31 19:19:59-04

CLEVELAND — We are just five weeks away from the start of early voting in Ohio — something in past presidential election years people wouldn’t even be thinking about until after Labor Day, but not this year.

Already, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has processed more than 100,000 vote-by-mail ballot requests and another 25,000 are currently backlogged in their warehouse, compared to just a couple thousand requests at this point four years ago, according to Director Anthony Perlatti.

“So really we're blown out of the water with these numbers, which is great,” he said.

The county has added 30 temporary workers to help process the vote-by-mail applications that have been coming in at a record pace.

County-wide, that means about 12% of all voters have requested absentee ballots, but the numbers are much higher in some communities: 23.8% in Orange, 22.7% in Pepper Pike, 22.5% in Shaker Heights and 22.3% in Beachwood.

“And this without even the Secretary of State sending out his applications yet, which that will be hitting mailboxes within the next couple of weeks,” Perlatti said.

While voters may receive vote-by-mail applications from both the Secretary of State and the party they’re affiliated with, Perlatti has asked voters to fill out just one.

“What we want to do is minimize duplicate applications because that's doubling up on work when we can be doing initial applications,” he said.

Perlatti suggested that voters head to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website’s Track My Ballot tool to check the status of their ballot request application.

“So if you sent one in already and you're not sure — did it get processed? Look there and then when you get a Secretary of State [application], if you know that we have one that's been processed, there's no need for you to send that back. In fact, we prefer that you don't with that because it is a duplicate.”

As for the makeup of the county’s voters this year – 70% of Cuyahoga County voters are non-partisan, 22% are registered Democrats and 8% are Republicans.

Chart showing the party makeup of voters this year.

Among those groups, statistics from the election board show that 29% of Democrats, 10.5% of Republicans and 6.25% of Independents have already requested ballots so far.

Historically, vote-by-mail declined slightly in Cuyahoga County during the last presidential election in 2016, but expect that number to increase significantly this year. In 2008, 40% of the county’s voters used the mail to vote and 60% voted on Election day. In 2012, 41% were vote-by-mail, and in 2016, 37% of voting was done by mail versus 63% on Election Day.

Chart showing the percent of voters who chose to vote by mail early versus voting on election day during the last three presidential elections.

The overall General Election turnout in Cuyahoga County went from 61% in 2008 to 70% in 2012 to 69% in 2016.

Chart showing the overall voters turnout for the last three presidential elections

The chart below from the board of election shows the voter turnout for each affiliation over the last three elections - blue is Democrats, red is Republicans and green is nonpartisan or independent voters.

Number of voters of each party affiliation over the last three presidential elections. Blue is Democrat, red is Republican and Green is nonpartisan.