Local Voters Respond to Election Results and Tell Their Stories

By Nina Franco

In record numbers, 4.3 million Ohioans headed to the polls on Election Day.

It was the highest midterm turnout in Ohio since 1994, with 54.3 percent of the electorate voting, according to the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.

Robert Simpson, an election official stationed at Kramer Elementary School in Oxford on Election Day, cited unprecedented numbers in local voter turnout as well.

“Usually midterms are pretty light, but this one has been absolutely incredible,” Kramer said. “When we opened our doors, the parking lot was already filled, along with the side parking lots at Kramer.”

There were wins and losses on both sides of the aisle—nationally and statewide.

Democrats flipped the U.S. House of Representatives, gaining 27 seats, while the Republicans retained control of the Senate, gaining two seats.

While the Dayton Daily News reported that five Democrats have flipped seats in the Ohio Statehouse, the GOP will retain control in Columbus.

Republican Candice Keller, an incumbent Ohio state representative from Middletown, defeated Democratic challenger and newbie candidate Rebecca Howard, a professor at Miami University and former business owner.

According to the Butler County Board of Elections, Keller held onto 64.2 percent of the vote, while Howard lagged with 35.8 percent.

“Thank you so much to all our supporters and friends today who voted for me and sent me back to the Ohio Statehouse!” Keller wrote on her Facebook page Tuesday night. “I’m deeply humbled and grateful! Time to get back to work!”

This might not mean an end for Howard, though. The Dayton Daily News reported she said she would not rule out another run in the future.

Meanwhile, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown defeated U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci with 53.2 percent of the vote for Ohio’s senatorial seat, and Republican Mike DeWine captured 50.7 percent of the gubernatorial vote, beating Richard Cordray.

Oxford Observer reporters interviewed voters at four polling places and at three election results watch parties after polls closed. They told the story of Election Day through Twitter and Instagram, as well as in video.

Here are some of the interesting voter stories students heard along the way.

From Istanbul to Oxford: Mary Rezaian on the importance of the midterms

by Coburn Gillies

Before deciding to relocate stateside to Butler County, Mary Rezaian knew she had to have a firm purpose. Leaving Turkey after a four-year stay in the increasingly authoritarian nation posed a refreshing opportunity to return to a democracy.

Rezaian is the mother of Washington Post global opinions writer Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist who was convicted of espionage in Iran and imprisoned there for 18 months until 2016.

His jailing prompted a global backlash and outcry by the news media and the Post, which called it an “unjust” detention.

On Tuesday, his mother was passing out sample ballots to voters entering the Shriver Center on Miami University’s campus. She said she understands the importance and magnitude of the election cycle, and how crucial it is for all levels of government.

“I think women are concerned and are worried about how things are unfolding for their children,” said Rezaian. “Health care is … a really big concern. I think people are waking up. I’ve been concerned for a few years that the electorate was spending too much time watching Dancing with the Stars.”

As an Oxford resident, Rezaian said she was most excited about Rebecca Howard, the Miami professor trying to unseat Republican Candice Keller to represent Ohio’s 53rd House District. Keller won that match, with 64.1 percent of the vote.

But Rezaian didn’t deem Tuesday’s results as disastrous or cataclysmic by any measure.

In a Wednesday interview, she said, “I was disappointed in the outcome of our local Ohio races, and I hope that won’t turn off students who voted for progressive Democrats, causing them to lose heart and become discouraged with politics.

“Change takes time, and this year the political atmosphere was super-charged, with a lot of misinformation.”

She admires Cordray and Ocasio-Cortez, and still has hope

by Olivia Lewis

Crowds were thinning in the halls of Talawanda High around 7 p.m. on Election Day, save a few voters who drifted in and out the heavy glass doors. The remaining “I voted” stickers, previously a mountainous pile, were now strewn across the table like cookies on a baking sheet.

Just when poll workers started to fidget, another voter strode in. Her hair was pulled back to reveal the pink letters of her Sigma Lambda Gamma jacket. She entered the polling room shuffling tiredly, but emerged standing tall, a coy smile tugging at her lips.

Josephine Webb, 22 years old, is a senior at Miami University majoring in international and East Asian languages and cultures. As a woman with Mexican and English heritage, Webb grew up in a household that’s made her passionate about diversity.

“I have issues with the rhetoric that the Republican Party has been using and I disagree with it completely, so I want to see a change there,” Webb said.

The candidate she was most excited about was the Democratic candidate for Ohio governor, Richard Cordray. She said she admires his “all-inclusive rhetoric” and how “it’s really about everyone and not pointing fingers.”

Although Cordray garnered only 46.7 percent of the vote to Republican Mike DeWine’s  50.7 percent, Webb said she still has hope for the future. A topic high on her voting priorities was Issue I and while that drug penalties measure didn’t pass, she still believes in the importance of drug-related penalty reform.

“It’s really important to me to have legislation that actually promotes equal and fair time sentencing,” Webb said, her voice raising slightly, “[Issue I] would decriminalize those small offenses, especially because in the court system it seems those who are people of color get worse times than those not of color.”

While the 2016 election gave her doubts about whether her vote mattered, Webb said midterm results favoring Democrats, like the magnetic New York Congresswoman-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have reignited her optimism.

Closely watching Issue I results—and a little basketball

by Ryer Gardenswartz

It was 8 p.m. on Election Night and there were a lot of questions to be answered.

At Left Field Tavern in Oxford, a handful of College Republicans members were posted in the back corner, laptops scattered as they tried to get information about races as quickly as possible.

All TVs were either set to the Kansas-Michigan State basketball game or to election coverage. As results began to roll in, so did the students. With more people came more chatter and more eyes on election results.

Watching over the entire operation were McKenna Harbison and Michael Wing, both Miami University students. They hoped for the failure of Issue I.

“Issue I was unfortunate,” said Wing. “I found that one to be very troubled.”

Harbison is a sophomore, and membership and event director for College Republicans.

She got involved with the organization when she was a freshman and has attended the prominent Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

Like Harbison, Wing has been involved with the College Republicans since day one at Miami.

Now he is in his senior year and is its chairman. His Election Day started off without politics as he had to take an exam bright and early. However, he was still able to make his way to Hamilton to pass out flyers and inform voters.

After months of hard work, they were both anxiously awaiting the final tallies. They said both knew how hard the College Republicans and the GOP had worked for this night, and could only hope for the best.

Issue I was defeated 63.4 percent to 36.6 percent.