Township Officials Lay Groundwork for March 15 Primary Election

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — You could tell Tom Willsey, the local trustee for Ross Township, that his small polling location in Butler County doesn’t matter in the March 15 Primary Election, but he knows that you would be wrong.

“I’ve been through primary elections several times in my time as a trustee,” said Willsey, the president of the Ohio Township Association. “It never ceases to amaze me how much local township precincts make a difference to a specific candidates’ candidacy.”

In fact, back in 2012, Rick Santorum nearly defeated Mitt Romney in Ohio by winning most of the rural counties where township precincts are the norm.

“A race in Ohio can definitely be won or lost by how you fare in rural counties,” said Aaron Ockerman, executive director of the Ohio Association of Election Officials. “I have complete confidence in each counties’ Board of Elections and I know they are always proud to work with townships to help setup precincts across Ohio.”

County Board of Elections are in charge of approximately 8,800 precincts in Ohio and a majority of those are held in township community centers and manned by township employees.

“I think people underestimate the overall size of townships across the state. After all, 35 percent of Ohio’s population will vote in a township on March 15,” said Matt DeTemple, the executive director of the Ohio Township Association. “I don’t think everyone realizes so many people in Ohio live in townships. Some townships have larger populations than cities, but we also shouldn’t forget about the little township. The combination of the two make a powerful punch in elections.”

There are gigantic population differences among the 1,308 townships in Ohio. Some townships have populations of less than 100 people, while others have a population of more than 60,000. However, it is the levies passed during these elections that help townships run smoothly.

“Primary elections are not only important to help decide the presidential candidates, but levies and other decisions are typically placed on ballots as well,” said Willsey. “Township officials appreciate the voter turnout during these elections because they can get a real ‘litmus test’ for their constituents view of a specific plan or levy.”

While Willsey and DeTemple acknowledge the presidential race is the big item on the docket March 15, they appreciate that townships, along with counties, play a large role in elections.