COLUMBUS -- Early voting in Ohio hasn't led to more votes being cast, according to a newspaper analysis of turnout in the past three presidential elections.
Numbers reported by The Columbus Dispatch showed that turnout in the 2012 race -- when Ohioans arguably had the most opportunities in state history to vote early -- was lower than the 2004 election, when there was no early voting.
Turnout in 2008 -- the first election for early voting -- was about 1 percent higher than in 2004.
"People who vote early are people who are typically going to vote anyway," said Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University. "So early voting hasn't really succeeded in turning out more people to vote. We've made it a lot easier to vote, but on the other hand, some people are very discouraged about politics and might not care how easy it is to vote."
Being able to vote before election day has become a hot topic in the state since the 2004 election, when returns were delayed by logjams at the polls.
It was at the forefront again last week when a federal judge granted a permanent injunction preventing Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted from restricting or eliminating voting on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before all future elections.
Democrats hailed the ruling "a win for all Ohioans" and a victory for greater ballot access.
But experts view the ruling as more of a "symbolic" win for voting-rights activists and a tactical advantage for some campaigns than an open door to more people participating in democracy.
"If all things are equal, early voting would increase voter turnout, but all things aren't equal," said John Green, a political science professor at the University of Akron. "But there are many factors in each election: the closeness of the race, the excitement to vote for a candidate or the degree of anger in the electorate."
Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com