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In Ohio, Voters Flock to Cast Ballots Early

In Ohio, Voters Flock to Cast Ballots Early

By Erin McPike and Scott Conroy - November 4, 2012


CINCINNATI -- For months, President Obama's senior campaign advisers have made clear that early voting is the cornerstone to the president's re-election strategy. Nowhere is that more true than in the Buckeye State, where a new poll from the Columbus Dispatch shows President Obama clinging to a two-point lead just 48 hours before Election Day.

Early voting began in Ohio on Oct. 2, though the Republican-dominated legislature had passed a law to end it three days prior to Nov. 6. But, in a ruling hailed as a victory for the Obama campaign, a federal appeals court tossed out the law, allowing early voting to go forward in the stretch run. 

Hamilton County, where Cincinnati is located, is Ohio’s third largest. It’s also an area where Barack Obama prevailed over John McCain in 2008. In 2010, however, then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, lost Hamilton narrowly in his failed re-election race against John Kasich. The Obama campaign has vowed to win back the county this year.

Cincinnati is one of the most racially divided cities in the entire country. And on Saturday afternoon, the vast majority of the hundreds of people who were lined up well past closing time at the county’s early-voting site were African-Americans. A very small number of whites were waiting as well.

Two of those in the minority were forthright about their reason for braving the cold weather and long lines. “I'm voting early because I want the count to be somewhat accurate before Tuesday,” said Courtney Ruble, a 28-year-old Republican who planned to vote for Mitt Romney.

She and friend Angela Ozar, 23, were among the 20,000 people who attended Romney’s massive rally Friday night in West Chester, Ohio, which featured a Kid Rock musical performance and roughly 100 prominent Republican politicians. Volunteers urged rally-goers to vote this weekend so that the count is not skewed as heavily toward Obama going into Tuesday.

Ruble and Ozar joined the line at noon and still hadn’t gotten inside to vote by 2:30, but they were close to the door. The line wrapped around Broadway Street, where the entrance is, and down a hill around the corner on Bedinger Street.

Many of the Obama supporters in line told RCP they hadn’t been urged to vote early via mail, phone calls or personal contact from the campaign. They said they were doing it of their own volition for a variety of reasons.

For a host of these voters, the scheduling conflict created by their work hours was too big of a gamble. Others said they’ve had problems at their voting stations in the past, or that their precincts have changed and they didn’t want to chance missing out. And for still others, it was an occasion to vote with family or friends.

Melvin Childs complained that when he voted four years ago, he had to go to three different locations before he was allowed to cast his ballot, and he was still distraught about the experience when he talked to RCP on Saturday. “They finally let me vote when I got to the third one, and I was the last guy to vote in there,” he said.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done this,” Childs said of his decision to vote early. But he did so to avoid the hassle he had last time, which he called “harassment.” As he described it, “they’re juggling the polls.”

Again this election, he said, “they kept changing where my location is, so I just said forget it.” Instead, he headed to the lone voting location in Hamilton County where he knew “I can vote . . . without problems.” (Each county has just one station for early voting, whereas hundreds of them are open on Election Day.)

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Erin McPike and Scott Conroy are national political reporters for RealClearPolitics. Erin can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Scott can be reached at sconroy@realclearpolitics.com

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