Tuesday, September 30, 2008 at 11:39 PM
Local Boards of Elections report that yesterday, the first day ever for Ohioans to vote early in a general presidential election, went smoothly. But there was no shortage of drama. From last minute lawsuits to testing of new voting equipment, elections officials were certainly busy. Ideastream®'s Mhari Saito reports.
George Cintron admits he wouldn't have voted in the US Presidential election yesterday if it hadn't been so easy. Cintron is homeless. His address - on this day - is a Cleveland men's shelter. Historically, when you registered to vote, you waited to get either your voting location information or absentee ballot in the mail. That's hard to do if you don't have a permanent address. New state laws created a window this week for Ohioans to register and vote absentee the same day. And that was the turning point for Cintron. The last time he cast a ballot was for Jimmy Carter in 1976.
George Cintron: They asked me if I wanted to vote and I figure it's a privilege to vote earlier.
'They' are volunteers from the democrat leaning group Vote Today Ohio who are taking Cintron and hundreds of shelter residents to Cuyahoga County's Board of Elections this week. Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless's Brian Davis is hoping 2,000 shelter residents cast ballots by Saturday afternoon. But not everyone is a fan of same day registration and voting. Here's deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party Kevin Dewine.
Kevin Dewine: We believe the potential for illegal election activity is very real and the evidence is clear in other states that this process has been abused.
The ruling allowing same day registration and voting came from Ohio's Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. Since Friday, the state Supreme Court, two federal judges and the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati have rejected state GOP complaints and upheld Brunner's directive. Just prior to the appeals ruling Tuesday, Dewine, speaking with reporters, was insistent that abuses are occurring.
Kevin Dewine: We are already receiving reports from around the state of Democrats and Obama supporters offering everything from alcohol to concert tickets for voter registration and even votes.
The Ohio Secretary of State's office says they have received no reports of such activity. Ohio's Obama campaign spokesman Isaac Baker.
Isaac Baker: I think it's unfortunate that the Republicans instead of turning out their voters and encouraging a robust democracy in Ohio are resorting to distraction and dishonest tactics.
Despite the political sideswiping, early voting is changing the election. The McCain campaign has sent out email blasts to voters and hosts a site on its campaign website to get supporters voting early. The Obama campaign is hosting rallies to attract college students and bringing in high profile supporters, like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Obama's Ohio communications director Baker says getting supporters to turn out early is a critical part of their plan.
Isaac Baker: What it does is allow us to narrow our focus on election day to a smaller pool of supporters who have yet to turn out and vote and we'll have more resources dedicated to focusing on those folks with so many votes already in the bank for us during the early voting window.
In Cuyahoga County yesterday, 558 people voted early. About one in four of those who showed up registered and voted on the same day. Also yesterday, Cuyahoga County's Board of Elections had to reschedule a final test of new ballot scanning machines. The new equipment is part of a $13.4 million contract with voting machines maker Elections Systems and Software and will be used to scan ballots at each of the county's 1,436 precincts. Jane Platten is the director of the county's Board of Elections.
Jane Platten: It was a printer error. So we've asked them to reprint those ballots for us. They are test ballots only, not election ballots for Nov. 4th.
The final test - called logic and accuracy testing - is scheduled for today. Voter registration ends on October 6th. Mhari Saito, 90.3.