By Ray Hom
As of the most recent presidential election in 2020, it seems Ohio is no longer considered a swing state. In the past, whichever way Ohio voted, so went the nation. This has been the case dating back half a century. However this year, Republican candidate Donald Trump won Ohio while Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the presidency. Many may wonder what happened during this election cycle and if this will be the case going forward.
Ohio’s population no longer mirrors the nation. It is slightly older and less educated than the US overall. Approximately two-thirds of the voters in the 2020 election were ages 45 and older, including a quarter who were 65 and up. 56% of the older voters supported Trump. Additional data showed that those who stayed home amongst registered voters were predominantly younger voters. 70% were under the age of 45. The survey also showed that the vast majority of Ohio voters were predominantly white. Also, two-thirds of white voters without a college degree voted for Trump.
In taking a deeper dive at the survey data in Ohio, does this really mean that we are no longer a swing state? There is one key factor that will determine whether the 2024 presidential election will be competitive in Ohio again. Getting out the vote has always been crucial in tight races, and Georgia showed the country how effective campaigning in heavily populated urban and suburban counties across major cities made a difference for Democrats.
In 2019, the Black voting population in Georgia reached a record high of 2.5 million eligible voters, making up a third of the state’s electorate. The Latino and Asian American voting populations have also grown, more than tripling in size between 2000 and 2019, but, still at a smaller share, 5% and 3%, respectively. Asian Americans, being one of its fastest-growing demographics, increased by 47 percent from 2012 to 2018. White voters also grew but at a much lower rate. As a result, the White voter share declined by 11 points during this period, but still held a majority (58%) of the Georgia electorate in 2019.
The heroine in this effort can be credited to former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who lost a close race in the 2018 Governor’s race. During that election, she highlighted voter suppression tactics and issues against black and brown communities across Georgia. Determined to fight back, she started Fair Fight, a PAC focused on preventing illegal voter purges, poll closures, long lines at polling stations, and most importantly, on a voter’s right to vote.
During her tenure as a lawmaker, Abrams partnered with community-based organizations to increase civic participation among Asian Americans and immigrant communities, which have historically been neglected by political campaigns. She regularly attended AAPI community events, admired the AAPI unity efforts, and launched the first statewide campaign to have a comprehensive Asian American program with an Asian American staff leading a multilingual outreach effort. As a result of her outreach efforts, there are now 5 Asian American lawmakers in Georgia at the state level.
Abrams highlighted Georgia’s racial and ethnic diversification as a major driver behind Joe Biden’s victory. Abram’s two voting rights organizations, Fair Fight and The New Georgia Project registered more than 800,000 new voters, with a focus on people of color, leading up to the election. The state’s Asian American and Pacific Islander population experienced unprecedented levels of outreach, leading to a turnout that broke records. A historically GOP district swung blue, and Biden won the state of Georgia with a narrow margin of 0.2% (12,000 votes).
What if Ohio can get out the vote in 2024 by mobilizing more young voters and people of color to register and vote? What can state and local lawmakers do to educate and engage these communities, similar to what Abrams did in Georgia? Even though the demographics are changing, can Ohio still be a swing state again with a laser-focused approach to mobilizing in people of color communities? What occurred in Georgia can also happen in Ohio. With the mantra of every vote counts, can Ohio do the same in future elections to make a difference in the margin?