Uncontested local elections a growing norm in Butler County

There are 23 potential contested local races in Butler County this November, pending certification of candidates later this month. A nearly 10-race decline from the 2009 local election year.

The downward trend of contested national and local races have been evident in the past several years, said University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven.

RELATED: Butler County shaping up to have fewer contested races in November

“The frightening part is it’s a pretty difficult hurdle for democracy,” Niven said of the lack of contested races.

The question of how to make elections more competitive has been asked year after year, and some of that involves voter apathy.

A Pew Research Center study in 2006 indicated politicians and political experts had “concern” over the lack of competitiveness in U.S. elections, but that concern was not shared by the public. Some experts believe the lack of political competition is due to low voter turnout.

Voter turnout in local elections in Butler County typically is sub-30 percent unless there’s a statewide issue — which there are two this year — driving turnout.

Wednesday was the filing deadline for local races within the county, except for Hamilton mayor and Hamilton and Middletown city councils, which have an Aug. 24 filing deadline. Candidates yet to be certified will have their petitions reviewed and the board of elections will vote to certify candidates for November’s ballot on Aug. 21. The Hamilton and Middletown city council races will be certified at the Aug. 28 board meeting.

RELATED: Democrats have plan to make Butler County blue again

In this election cycle, the local election following a presidential election, there are just more than 40 Butler County offices to be elected.

There’s been a steady decline in contested local elections since 2009. In 2009, there were 31 contested races out of 61 total offices up for election.

Niven said there are really two ways to look at the lack of contested races: either there was no one upset enough to run, or people feel they can’t win so why bother.

The latter school of thought, he said, especially at the local level, is pretty far from the truth but that’s not an uncommon thought.

“A lot of folks have no idea how easy it is to get on the ballot and to win one of these races,” Niven said. “The number one that keeps people from running is they are of the conclusion that they couldn’t possibly win.”

RELATED: Hamilton term limits and wards: Petitioners short on signatures

So when voters show up at the polls, or vote early at home or at the board of elections, and sees no competition, the choice is being taken out of the voters’ hands and that can be frustrating, Niven said. It’s also “worrisome because it means there can’t be a healthy debate because there’s no one to have it,” he said.

Miami University Regionals political science professor John Forren, who pays close attention to local politics, says seeing 50 percent of local races contested may not necessarily be a decline in local democracy.

Depending on which races are being contested, there may be more choice than the numbers show.

“In a place like Butler County, which has been difficult terrain for Democrats for decades, I’d say that the idea that half of the races are going to be contested is actually a sign of increasing competition rather than a sign of decline,” he said.

Forren said it’s a sign of a healthy democracy when there are contested races because competition between candidates means the voters will more often have a real choice when it comes to who will govern “and by extension, what policies will be carried out by government.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

Checkpoint leads to 17 citations issued in Washington Twp.
Checkpoint leads to 17 citations issued in Washington Twp.

An OVI checkpoint was held from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. Friday in Washington Township. The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Montgomery County Combined Agency OVI Task Force conducted the checkpoint. There were no OVI arrests made during the checkpoint that saw over 730 vehicles on State Route 725 near Paragon Road, according to a release...
Little Caesars honoring bracket-busting win with free pizza
Little Caesars honoring bracket-busting win with free pizza

If you’re crying in your beer after the University of Maryland-Baltimore County became the ultimate bracket buster in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, take heart. There is a free pizza waiting to ease your sorrow. Little Caesars is honoring UMBC’s 74-54 victory against Virginia -- the first time a No. 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 seed...
Amber Alert: Boy, 4, found safe in Ohio thanks to vigilant motorist
Amber Alert: Boy, 4, found safe in Ohio thanks to vigilant motorist

A vigilant motorist helped authorities find a 4-year-old Ohio boy who was abducted hours earlier from his home in Sandusky and was the subject of a statewide Amber Alert. Police said Jennifer Hemcheck forcibly removed Q’Dai Hemcheck from a vehicle and sped away with him in a white 2015 Hyundai Sonata with Florida license plates...
Disney brings ‘Toy Story’ magic to South Florida boy
Disney brings ‘Toy Story’ magic to South Florida boy

Sometimes Disney magic is delivered right to your door, bringing you smiles, tears and lots of joy.  This happened to a South Florida family on March 14 when they spotted a special box at their house. But first, let’s rewind to last weekend, when a simple mistake was made. On the previous Saturday, the Ramsaran family of Riviera Beach went...
On gun issues, Ohio’s governor candidates far apart
On gun issues, Ohio’s governor candidates far apart

Throughout Ohio and across the country Wednesday, students locked arms in solidarity toward the victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. But there is little solidarity among the candidates running for Ohio governor about what to do about school shootings, or gun violence in general. Asked...
More Stories