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November election could turn over entire Cincinnati City Council

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The election for Cincinnati City Council is just three weeks away, and a record number of candidates are vying for nine seats.

Experts say voter turnout, in a way we typically do not analyze it, could determine who fills the City Council spots.

University of Cincinnati Political Science professor David Niven found an interesting trend when studying the last two Cincinnati Council elections.

“We know the total number of votes cast. So, we know that in 2017 people voted on average for about 6.4 candidates, and the same thing happened in 2013,” explains Niven. “And so essentially, the folks who actually show up and cast their ballots, are leaving more than 100,000 votes for city council on the table that they’re not using.”

If a voter does not select nine candidates, that can leave empty votes.

Niven says those 1,000 empty votes can flip the emphasis of voter turnout.

“You can just win by capturing some of those wasted votes,” says Niven. “It’s you don’t have to force people to go to the polls. You can win a seat on city council just by getting people to use some of those votes that they’re otherwise just going to throw away.”

Cincinnati uses a unique system compared to others.

Across Ohio, big cities typically are broken down into districts. A person would vote for council members by neighborhood, or in Columbus, they split the field.

“The process asks an awful lot of candidates to try and rise to the level that folks know who they are,” explains Niven. “I mean, even if you are doing extraordinarily well, and you’re ahead of dozens of candidates, you could still lose this election. It’s a very odd thing to be running against 30 some other people, and then from the voters’ perspective, you know, imagine having, you know, to sort of wade through. I mean, this is like a final exam question in a very difficult class.”

Keep in mind, Cincinnati voters will also determine a new mayor in the election.

Mayor John Cranley is term limiting out and is now running for governor.

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