COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Women in Ohio are signing up to vote at “jaw-dropping” rates, new reports show.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its June ruling that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion, Ohio women have out-registered men to vote by at least 8%, according to two separate analyses of state voter files. Threats to reproductive health care and the “sweepingness” of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, experts said, are fueling women to add their names to the voter rolls.
“We’re hearing from women that this is absolutely motivating why they’re registering, why they’re volunteering to get out the vote, but also for men who are concerned about what this could mean for the health of their loved ones,” Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said.
An investigation into Ohio’s voter files, supplemented by consumer databases, by U.S. political data analytics firm TargetSmart revealed an 11% gender gap existed between new voter registrants since June 24, with women taking the lead. A separate New York Times analysis put it at 8%.
That number is up significantly from TargetSmart showing that women outpaced men in registering to vote by 0.75% in 2018 and 0.25% in 2020, according to CEO Tom Bonier, a political science professor at Howard University.
“All signs point to a fired up female electorate around the country in states where abortion rights are under immediate threat,” Bonier said in a news release.
TargetSmart placed Ohio at No. 7 nationally for the widest margins between men and women new voter registrants.
As Ohio attests, Bonier said it’s not only blue states that are seeing more women register to vote. The gender gap becomes more pronounced, he said, in states that have near-total or total abortion bans, including in Ohio, where the procedure is effectively banned after six weeks.
One caveat to the data: Ohio does not ask people registering to vote to disclose their gender, meaning the state’s voter files don’t say whether a voter is a man or woman, a spokesperson for Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office said. Bonier said in an email that for states where gender is not provided, TargetSmart matches a person’s voter files with a “broad range of consumer databases” to determine the individual’s gender.
A New York Times investigation also found a “pronounced surge” in Ohio women voter registrants, with an 8% gender gap between men and women new voters.
That surge is apparent on Denison University’s campus, according to Zoya Gheisar, a senior in history and data analytics. President of Denisonians for Planned Parenthood, she said a record number of students stopped by the group’s table at the school’s involvement fair – even those with little previous interest in politics.
“So many freshmen,” she said. “And I think people kept saying, ‘Especially now,’ ‘After Roe v. Wade,’ ‘I was nervous about this and am glad people are talking about it.’ It was a completely different tone from previous years.”
Lawrence Baum, an emeritus political science professor at Ohio State University, said the uptick in women registrants came as somewhat of a surprise.
“Even when the Supreme Court has been a big issue, as it was in the presidential election in 2016, nobody even thought to look at registrations and how they were affected,” he said.
The “sweepingness” of both the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe and Ohio’s six-week abortion ban that leaves no exceptions for rape or incest – as opposed to modifying abortion law to a lesser extent – likely played a role in influencing women to register, Baum said.
Most Americans disapprove of Roe’s overturn, with 62% saying it should be legal in all or most cases, according to a July Pew Research Center report. As for Ohioans, 53.4% said state lawmakers should protect abortion rights, a June Suffolk University/USA Today Network poll found.
“If you look at public opinion surveys on abortion, the largest number of people are somewhere in the middle in terms of how much regulation of abortion or prohibition of abortion they would allow,” Baum said. “Because the Supreme Court’s decision was so sweeping, now you’ve got most people against the Supreme Court’s position.”
Given the controversial nature of Ohio’s heartbeat bill – which faced political backlash after a 10-year-old rape victim traveled out of state for an abortion – Baum said he’d be surprised if Republicans in the Statehouse enact even stricter bans before the Nov. 8 election.
“My guess is that this political development probably is going to make Republicans in the Ohio legislature a little more cautious about going further than they have already,” he said.
Baum said it’s hard to imagine Ohio Republicans losing their stronghold on statewide office seats, but he said the surge will be meaningful even if GOP candidates win by smaller margins than anticipated.
“One thing I did not see coming – and I don’t think most people saw coming – was the effect of overturning Roe on people who don’t want to get abortions but get caught up in it because of their health conditions,” he said. “I don’t think anybody thought about that.”