by Dominic Detwiler, Public Policy Strategist, Equality Ohio
(This piece was written on November 6 and does not reflect President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being declared the winners of the 2020 election.)
We made it. Voting in the 2020 Election has finally concluded, and Ohioans’ voices have been heard. There’s a lot to talk about and a lot we still don’t know yet, but Equality Ohio’s policy team has been up with you through the past 72 hours to help figure out just what happened and how it will impact LGBTQ+ Ohioans.
As a reminder, Equality Ohio is a non-partisan organization that does not endorse candidates or parties. We do have an Elected Official Scorecard that graded candidates for President and Vice President, as well as incumbent members of the Ohio Legislature. We’ll use those grades a lot in this analysis.
This is a long post, and we’ll be sure to update it as more results are tallied. Here is a brief summary of what happened.
- Turnout in Ohio was record-breaking. 3.4 million Ohioans casting their ballots early or by mail and another 2.3 million voting on Election Day. 311,519 ballots are still not back to the County Boards of Elections, but a lot of them should be in the next few days.
- As of right now, we still aren’t sure about the Presidential race. That’s ok. It’s exactly what we expected, and it means that battleground states are being intentional and patient as they count every vote.
- LGBTQ+ Equality won on the ballot in Ohio. Golf Manor, a small village in Southwest Ohio, voted overwhelmingly to keep the LGBTQ+-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance that their city council passed in January of last year. The residents of Golf Manor were clear in their support for LGBTQ+ equality, with 74% of the vote in favor of keeping the law on the books.
- Racial Justice & Police Reform: Voters in the City of Columbus overwhelmingly approved Issue 2, which will create a Civilian Police Review Board in the City and increase police accountability and oversight. Equality Ohio was proud to endorse this measure. We are looking forward to making sure this board and its work are fully implemented.
- Ohio voted decisively to re-elect President Donald Trump, but that doesn’t mean he will win the election. There are still millions of votes left to be counted in key states, like Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Arizona. Some have been “called” as we post this, some have not. Full official results will not be in for a few days yet.
- Democrats lost seats in the Ohio House of Representatives and may net zero in the Ohio Senate. Every legislator with an A+ grade on our scorecard who ran for re-election won their race.
First, let’s look at some of the historic victories we saw for LGBTQ+ candidates had across the country:
- New York elected the first two openly gay Black men to Congress, Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones.
- Sarah McBride won a seat in the Delaware state Senate, making her the first openly transgender person in the nation to be elected as a state senator.
- Mauree Turner won a seat in the Oklahoma state legislature, making them the first nonbinary person in the nation to be elected as a state legislator.
- Stephanie Byers in Kansas and Taylor Small in Vermont became the first transgender people to be elected to their respective state legislatures.
- Tennessee elected its first ever openly LGBTQ lawmakers, Torrey Harris and Eddie Mannis. There are now only four states that have never elected openly LGBTQ people to their state legislatures.
- Here in Ohio, Charmaine McGuffey won her race to become the Hamilton County Sheriff. She defeated her old boss in the primary this spring after he fired her for being an out lesbian woman and she sought to change various practices within the sheriff’s office.
Turnout in Ohio was very high. With over 5.7 million Ohioans casting their ballots in the 2020 election, we should all be proud that over 71% of those registered to vote did so this year. Obviously, those numbers will continue to grow as absentee ballots postmarked before Election Day continue to be received. It is possible that with the remaining absentee ballots, Ohio will break our all-time voter turnout number of 5,773,777.
Regardless of the outcome of the election for any party or candidate, high voter turnout is essential for the health of our democracy. When Ohioans vote, Ohioans win.
This presidential election is one of the most important in the history of our country for so many reasons, and truthfully, we don’t know who won yet. It is difficult, but this means that the process is working exactly how it is designed to and that election officials are being intentional and counting every vote.
As you may have seen in our scorecard, there is a stark difference between the two major party tickets for the White House, with President Trump and Vice President Pence each earning Fs and Vice President Biden and Senator Harris earning a B and an A, respectively.
The results of the presidential election will become more and more clear in the coming days. What we need to do now is to come together as a state and as a country while continuing to hold those in power accountable for the decisions they make regarding LGBTQ+ Americans. We need to ensure that every vote is counted and that when those tallies are finalized, the results are respected.
There are tens of millions of votes left to count. Local election administrators are hard at work counting them now, and every hour that goes by is adding to the tally and emphasizing the voters’ decisive choice. You can watch (and share) that total vote margin increase at http://democracyrising.live
Ohio House of Representatives Summary
The composition of the Ohio House of Representatives stayed very similar to that in the current General Assembly. On net, Republicans gained 3 seats in the body, most of which were in the Eastern part of the state. This means that Republicans will maintain their supermajority in the Ohio House with 64 of the 99 Ohio House districts.
See the below table for a breakdown of Ohio House Election Results organized by the grade they received on our 2020 Elected Official Scorecard.
|Ohio House Election Results by 2020 Scorecard Grade|
|Grade||Number Running for Re-Election||Number Winning Re-Election||Win Percentage Margin|
As you can see, incumbents from across the spectrum of support for LGBTQ+ equality did very well in the Ohio House election. It was exciting to see that every candidate who had received an A+ on our scorecard won re-election. These legislators are our champions at the Statehouse and are vital to the success of bills like the Ohio Fairness Act, the bill to protect LGBTQ+ youth from so-called “conversion therapy”, and other positive pieces of legislation.
While all of those earning A+s won reelection, so did all 6 of the legislators who earned Fs. As we enter the next General Assembly, we will continue to monitor these legislators and the bills they introduce to fend off any and all attacks against LGBTQ+ Ohioans that they may introduce.
The races of Republican Representatives Brett Hillyer and Rick Carfagna have proven one vital reality that we have been working hard to make clear to Ohio’s conservatives: Equality Wins.
Equality Wins means that supporting LGBTQ+ equality is not only the right thing to do, but a winning political strategy, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. This idea was said best by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, when he said:
“I remember when I first introduced the Ohio Fairness Act, people said it was the end of my career as a Republican and that I would never win elected office again. Well, we proved them wrong. You can stand for equality and for what’s right and still hold fast to the beliefs you have.”
Representative Hillyer has been a vocal champion for LGBTQ+ equality at the Statehouse. He earned an A+ on our scorecard for being a lead sponsor of the bipartisan Ohio Fairness Act (HB 369) and a cosponsor of HB 503, which would protect youth from the harmful practice of so-called “conversion therapy”. Traditional campaign wisdom may assume that this could result in a challenge in this year’s election, but in reality, the opposite occurred. Not only was Rep. Hillyer not challenged in his primary this spring, but he won his general election by a margin 13 points larger than he did in 2018.
The same is true for Rep. Carfagna, who also signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill to protect youth from so-called “conversion therapy”. He was also unchallenged in his 2020 primary and his general election win margin was the largest of the three he has been in to represent the 68th district. Supporting LGBTQ+ equality is not just the right thing to do; it is a winning strategy because Ohioans overwhelmingly support it and are demanding it of their elected leaders from all political parties.
Below, you can find the breakdown of the current (133rd) General Assembly by grade received on the scorecard. This is a much better representation of where legislators land on LGBTQ+ issues than a simple partisan breakdown because we know that LGBTQ+ equality is not a partisan issue and support for LGBTQ+ Ohioans varies among political parties.
|House Grade Makeup 133rd Ohio General Assembly|
To give you a better idea of what that breakdown might look like in the next General Assembly, we made a second table with the incumbents who won reelection, along with the number for new members who will be joining the Ohio House in January.
|House Grade Makeup 134th Ohio General Assembly|
As you can see, many of those who lost their races this year were on the moderate part of this spectrum between the B and C range. This is not entirely surprising, and we look forward to welcoming the new legislators and determining their levels of support for LGBTQ+ equality here in Ohio. Obviously, if you read through the scorecard, you will see that legislators’ grades are not set in stone, and our goal is that every legislator will earn an A or A+ in the next scorecard.
Six LGBTQ+ candidates ran for the Ohio House in the general election this year. They all ran as Democrats in very difficult districts, all of them rural or suburban and heavily gerrymandered to favor Republicans. Here’s a list of the LGBTQ+ candidates and the districts in which they ran:
- Laurel Johnson, Ohio House District 3
- Zach Stepp, Ohio House District 55
- Dara Adkison, Ohio House District 57
- Mark Carr, Ohio House District 71
- Marci McCaulay, Ohio House District 72 (Write-in Candidate)
- Alaina Swope, Ohio House District 97
Marci McCaulay, who ran as a write-in candidate against disgraced former House Speaker Larry Householder, won the most votes of the four write-in candidates. Considering the district and the fact that there were five candidates in the race, the fact that an openly LGBTQ+ woman won nearly 6,000 votes and 14% of the ballots cast in the 72nd district is truly something to celebrate and illustrates how important it is that LGBTQ+ people run for office.
Unfortunately, none of these candidates were successful when all the votes were counted, but they did something much more important than winning. They showed Ohioans across our state that you can be out and proud of who you are and where you are from, regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity, or ZIP code. These six folks are part of an ever-increasing snowball effect of LGBTQ+ candidates inspiring other LGBTQ+ folks to run for office that will result in greater representation of our community in elected offices across the country.
Ohio Senate Summary
The composition of the Ohio Senate remained fairly similar to the 133rd General Assembly. Of the 16 seats up for re-election in the Senate this year, Republicans held 13 districts and flipped one previously Democratic district. Democrats held one seat. One race, Senate District 16 between Democrat Crystal Lett and Republican Stephanie Kunze, remains too close to call and will likely go to a recount before we have final results. If Crystal Lett wins, the partisan composition of the Ohio Senate will remain the same for the 134th General Assembly as it was for the 133rd General Assembly. If Senator Kunze wins, Republicans will expand their current supermajority to hold 25 of the 33 total Ohio Senate districts, opposed to the Democrats’ 8 seats.
The table below shows how incumbent Senators and those hoping to move from the House to the Senate did, based on their 2020 scorecard Grade. As you can see, incumbency played a large factor in the Senate races. You will also see that a Senator who earned an A on our scorecard, Sen. Sean O’Brien, lost his election.
|Ohio Senate Election Results by 2020 Scorecard Grade|
|Grade||Number Running for Re-Election||Number Winning Re-Election||Win Percentage|
As we did in the Ohio House section above, below we have provided a projected 134th General Assembly scorecard grade breakdown to compare to the breakdown in the 133rd General Assembly. As you can see, the scorecard grade composition for the 134th General Assembly may look very similar to the current General Assembly.
|Senate Grade Makeup 133rd Ohio General Assembly|
|Senate Grade Makeup 134th Ohio General Assembly|
One of the most exciting and definitive pieces of good news from election night is that Golf Manor has voted overwhelmingly to keep nondiscrimination protections for people living, working, and visiting businesses in the village!
That means Golf Manor continues to be one of 32 localities in Ohio that has LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections.
We are so grateful to the Golf Manor community members who have worked tirelessly for almost two years for nondiscrimination protections in the village. It represents the story of how democracy can work: A group of residents see an opportunity to make their laws more inclusive so they gather, get organized, talk to their neighbors, answer questions from council and community members, ask for insight from experts, put on their T-shirts and show up. We will continue to support community members all across Ohio, city by city, until our state legislature passes the Ohio Fairness Act, declaring LGBTQ Ohioans as equal under the law in our state.
Thanks to Inclusive Golf Manor, Elaine Moscovitz, Sharon Chaney, Matt Boettcher, Lou Marx, Ashley Snyder, Dixie Beer, Bob Harper, Jivanto van Hemert, Cindy Barr, Monica Lira, Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati, Gwen Boggs, Golf Manor Mayor Stefan Densmore, Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus, Rabbi Moshe Smolkin, State Senator Cecil Thomas, Dave Willacker, and the other community members and voters who made this possible.
It has been a long few years in the 133rd General Assembly and an even longer 2020. With the COVID-19 pandemic reaching new heights here in Ohio and across the country and the continuing lack of clarity around the presidential election, the next two months will be difficult. But they also show the potential for massive levels of progress. The Ohio Fairness Act has a real chance of passing by the end of the year, and the wins we had in this election are only the first step to making our communities safer and more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people.
The work isn’t over, and we need your help. Volunteer to send texts and make calls to Ohioans, so we can pass the Ohio Fairness Act this year. Together, we can finally get the Ohio Fairness Act across the line and ensure that all Ohioans are safe from discrimination and can bring their full selves to every aspect of their lives.
Here are some opportunities for you to get involved.
- Sign up for a volunteer night. We’ll have one every Tuesday between now and the end of the year. You can find the sign up page here.
- Call House Speaker Bob Cupp and ask for OFA to be passed in the Lame Duck session. His number is (614) 466-9624.
- Call House Civil Justice Committee Chair, Representative Stephen Hambley, and ask him to hold more hearings on the Ohio Fairness Act. His number is (614) 466-8140.
- Call Senate President Larry Obhof and ask for OFA to be passed in the Lame Duck session. His number is (614) 466-7505.
- Call Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, Senator John Eklund, and ask him to hold more hearings on the Ohio Fairness Act. His number is (614) 644-7718.
- Invest in Equality Ohio’s Statehouse advocacy.
Dominic Detwiler is the Public Policy Strategist for Equality Ohio. Follow him on Twitter at @dom_detwiler.