Ohio voters switched parties in primary contest

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Swing state Ohio saw its voters sway in the presidential primary, with more than three times as many Democrats casting Republican ballots compared with the number of GOP party switchers, according to new data released Wednesday from the state’s election chief.

Ohioans who previously weren’t affiliated with a party prior to the primary also voted Republican at a higher rate, the data showed.

Voters do not register with a political party when they sign up to vote in Ohio but are considered affiliated with the party whose ballot they cast in a primary.

Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office said it compiled the party-switching information from the statewide voter database in response to requests following this year’s primary.

C.J. Leppert of Columbus said she voted for Republican Gov. John Kasich in the state’s March 15 primary with the hope of stopping Donald Trump from getting the GOP nomination. But Leppert, a 73-year-old retiree, considers herself a Democrat and plans to support that party’s nominee this fall.

“I would not vote for Trump for dog catcher,” Leppert said in an interview. “I’m just appalled by the number of people who are for him.”

How the numbers will translate to votes this fall for either party’s presidential nominee remains to be seen.

But the data reflect the intense interest in the Republican presidential race in many states by voters motivated to support or oppose the GOP front-runner, Trump. Kasich’s participation in his home state’s presidential primary also may have drawn otherwise unaffiliated or Democratic voters.

Kasich, who has since ended his campaign, won the state’s primary. Hillary Clinton won Ohio’s Democratic contest.

Democrats like Leppert might not be alone in abandoning the party she affiliated with in the primary.

Nearly half of those voting in the state’s GOP primary said they would consider choosing a third-party candidate if it’s a race between Trump and Clinton in November, according to exit polls of Ohio voters conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research. Three in 10 said they wouldn’t vote for Trump if he’s the nominee.

Husted said he’s prepared for the increased voter interest from the primary to carry forward to the general election.

“When you have people motivated to get out in a primary, that means that you’re probably going to see that continue for the November election,” Husted said.

He said elections officials should prepare for higher turnout this fall and encourage voters to cast early ballots to alleviate Election Day pressure at the polls.

Voter turnout in March was the second highest for a primary election in Ohio, with 43.7 percent of registered voters casting ballots. The state’s highest primary turnout was about 46.04 percent in the 2008 presidential primary.

The information being released Wednesday includes county-by-county data on voters’ political affiliations before and after the 2016 primary election. Husted’s office also compiled party-switching data for 2012 — but not for 2008. Data from that high-turnout year was collected differently, Husted said.


Associated Press writer John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.___

Follow Ann Sanner on Twitter at https://twitter.com/asanner.

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