So, the Ohio GOP (and the right-wing blogosphere) is apoplectic over SoS Brunner’s plan to encourage HS graduates to register to vote, and specifically, the counties targeted for the pilot test run of the program. The gist of the complaint is that of the 5 pilot counties (Knox, Lucas, Montgomery, Scioto, and Trumbull), only one (Knox) has more registered Republicans than Democrats. OK… so what?

The reason these counties were chosen is that four of the five are all below the state average in percentage of citizens registered to vote, and the fifth (Montgomery) is right at the state average. They are also, with the exception of Knox County, more-or-less the 5 largest counties with less-than-average voter registration rates. While all five voted for Strickland, only 16 of 88 counties voted for Blackwell, and two of the five pilot counties (Montgomery and Knox) voted for Blackwell at a higher rate than the state average.

Given that the criteria seem to be the largest counties with below-average registration rates, there are a few choices that better fit that combination of criteria than Knox County: Allen, Ashtabula, Clark, Erie, Washington, and Wayne counties are all larger than Knox County, and have a lower rate of registration. They also all voted for Ted Strickland at a higher rate than Knox County. Sometimes much higher.

So why not Butler, Clermont, or Delaware Counties? It’s true those three are some of the largest pro-Blackwell counties. They are also in far better shape in terms of voter registration: Delaware County has the highest voter registration rate in the state, and Butler and Clermont are not far behind. In fact, only Franklin, Stark, and Cuyahoga are both bigger and registered at a higher rate than Butler and Clermont counties.

The bottom line is that these counties were chosen primarily by weighting county size and low registration rates, and then politics were considered as a tertiary metric – which is why a smaller, better registered county like Knox was chosen over counties that trended more Democratic in the last election but are larger and worse-registered like Ashtabula or Clark.

You might be able to make some niggles about why Scioto was chosen over Ashtabula, for example, but in the final analysis it wouldn’t change the overall demographics of the 5 pilot counties that much. Which is why the wingnut outrage is a tempest in a teacup. They are trying to find partisanship that isn’t really there.

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