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Published: Tuesday, 11/6/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Citizens turned away from early vote site

Long line waits in Toledo at 2 p.m. closing time

BY FEDERICO MARTINEZ
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Loki Williams, 2, center, gets a seat on his dad's shoulders while waiting in a long line for early voting at the Early Voting Center in Summit Plaza. Loki Williams, 2, center, gets a seat on his dad's shoulders while waiting in a long line for early voting at the Early Voting Center in Summit Plaza.
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She waited nearly two hours in the cold to cast what was her very first vote.

But 22-year-old Brandy Hayes never had any doubt about why she was at the Lu­cas County Early Vot­ing Center on Mon­day.

“It’s an im­por­tant elec­tion and I wanted to ex­er­cise my right to vote,” Ms. Hayes said. “I want to see the Pres­i­dent in of­fice for four more years.”

That sen­ti­ment — that the stakes are high on Elec­tion Day to­day — was shared by many of the thou­sands of Toledo-area res­i­dents who waited up to three hours to vote on Mon­day. It was the fi­nal day to cast an early bal­lot af­ter a con­ten­tious state­wide de­bate over de­tails for early vot­ing.

It’s not just that the na­tion’s eyes are on Ohio, a state that very likely will de­ter­mine the out­come of a close race be­tween Demo­cratic Pres­i­dent Obama and Re­pub­li­can chal­lenger Mitt Rom­ney.

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Vot­ers across north­west Ohio and south­east Mich­i­gan also are elect­ing fed­eral, state, county, and town­ship of­fi­cials, as well as vot­ing on two state con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments in Ohio and six bal­lot is­sues in Mich­i­gan.

Ohio also has been in the spot­light for a heated race be­tween U.S. Sen. Sher­rod Brown, a Dem­o­crat, and Ohio Trea­surer Josh Mandel, a Re­pub­li­can, for the Senate seat. And in Lu­cas County, vot­ers will de­cide on five county­wide lev­ies, plus two more for Toledo city res­i­dents.

Early vot­ing this past week­end went smoothly, said Meghan Gal­la­gher, di­rec­tor of the Lu­cas County Board of Elec­tions. Even Re­pub­li­can and Demo­cratic mem­bers of the board of elec­tions found lit­tle to dis­agree about as they re­viewed bal­lots late Mon­day af­ter­noon.

Res­i­dents had un­til 2 p.m. Mon­day to vote early. All of those who ar­rived af­ter 2 p.m., like Carol Bos­tic, were turned away and di­rected to vote Tues­day at their usual vot­ing site.

Lu­cas County elec­tion of­fi­cials and sher­iff’s dep­u­ties stood in the crowd of wait­ing vot­ers and set the bound­ary for those who were al­ready in line and could vote and those who had just ar­rived and could not. Doz­ens of peo­ple tried to get into the North Toledo vot­ing cen­ter even af­ter the doors had closed.

Some were of­fer­ing to park cars to help peo­ple get in­side the cen­ter in the nick of time.

“I’m still go­ing to vote to­mor­row,” said Ms. Bos­tic, who un­suc­cess­fully pleaded her case to elec­tion of­fi­cials on Mon­day. “I’m go­ing to get my voice heard.”

Vot­ers this year had a 35-day win­dow to cast early bal­lots.

Of­fi­cials said they were pleased with early voter turn­out, de­spite on­go­ing fights about early vote cen­ter lo­ca­tions and hours this year.

Ac­cord­ing to Lu­cas County vot­ing records, 22,948 peo­ple voted early in per­son this year, Ms. Gal­la­gher said. That num­ber was less than four years ago when 24,669 res­i­dents voted early, she said.

Not ev­ery­one was sat­is­fied, though. Demo­cratic Lu­cas County Com­mis­sioner Pete Gerken said al­though he is pleased that early vot­ing went well, he is still un­happy that Re­pub­li­can Sec­re­tary of State Jon Husted de­cided to re­duce the num­ber of hours that peo­ple could vote early this year.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials should try to in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties to vote, not dis­cour­age vot­ers, Mr. Gerken said Mon­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the Early Vot­ing Center.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, the U.S. Supreme Court re­fused to block a lower fed­eral court rul­ing re­quir­ing the state to keep its doors open dur­ing the last three days be­fore to­day’s elec­tion for in-per­son early vot­ing.

Ms. Husted is­sued a di­rec­tive set­ting uni­form hours for all 88 coun­ties for those three days as he had for the rest of the early vot­ing pe­riod.

Vot­ers could cast bal­lots from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Satur­day; 1 to 5 p.m. on Sun­day, and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mon­day. Vot­ers had been cast­ing bal­lots in mail or in per­son since Oct. 2, but this past Satur­day and Sun­day rep­re­sented the only week­end in which bal­lots could be cast in per­son at county boards of elec­tions or at des­ig­nated early vote cen­ters.

Ohio Demo­cratic Party Chair­man Chris Red­fern had called on Mr. Husted to set other hours for the two other re­main­ing week­ends be­fore the elec­tion.

“I call those the lost 30 hours,” Mr. Gerken said. “It still amounts to voter sup­pres­sion.”

Despite long lines and cold weather, the at­mo­sphere was mostly up­beat and fes­tive­like over the week­end. Lo­cal restau­rants and or­ga­ni­za­tions passed out free food and warm bev­er­ages to peo­ple as they stood in line. Singer Dot­tie Peoples per­formed out­side the cen­ter on Satur­day, said Roshaana Tor­rez, a vol­un­teer with the Lu­cas County Demo­cratic Party.

Former Ohio First Lady Frances Strick­land, a Dem­o­crat, stood near the line on Mon­day, shak­ing hands of those who were wait­ing.

Dea­con Zet­tie Wil­liams of Fam­ily Bap­tist Church said he was pleased to see so many young peo­ple vot­ing on Mon­day.

“Just see­ing all of them line up to vote — they know that there’s a lot of stuff go­ing on in the com­mu­nity, and they want to make it bet­ter,” Mr. Wil­liams said.

Diane Jack­son, the last per­son to cast a vote at the cen­ter on Mon­day, wasn’t de­terred by be­ing last in line. Ms. Jack­son, who had to make a last-sec­ond, mad-dash to get in line in time, said she can’t vote to­day be­cause she has to work.

“I knew what I was get­ting into,” said Ms. Jack­son, ges­tur­ing at the hun­dreds of peo­ple in line ahead of her. “But I’m go­ing to wait in line as long as it takes.”

Con­tact Fed­erico Mar­ti­nez at: fmar­ti­nez@the­blade.com or 419-724-6154.

 



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