With the sun shining unseasonably outside the NAACP office in Cleveland is doubling as a nerve center for election protection. Gathered round a horseshoe of tables, with a hand-drawn map of the city’s precincts on hand, four or five lawyers field calls from election protection officials at polling stations. Heading over to OurVoteLive.org, you can see their efforts magnified nationwide, recording and sorting complaints from the electoral battlefield – but inside the office the atmosphere is congenial, not yet tense or hurried.
This isn’t 2004. Cuyahoga has since updated its electoral procedures and officials, and it seems to have done the trick. That’s not to say that problems don’t persist. One precinct up near Fairview Park reported that “everyone is all over the place” with voters sitting on bleachers, ballots being seen by others and a broken optical scanner. An hour later, Video the Vote shooters reported that a police car had pulled up and was hanging around outside, as the problems were slowly ironed out, which they seem to have been.
Judging from OurVoteLive.org, the nation’s electoral hotspots seem to be Missouri, or Virginia, not Ohio – at least not yet. Years of bitter experience may have jolted the state into action to rectify past mistakes. It’s best to say “may” right now, as Cuyahoga has a reputation for meltdowns, and no-one is being complacent.
Elsewhere in Ohio, Video the Vote has already been tracking abuses of the electoral process. In Columbus, for example, a shooter at the Frebis Ave. Church of God recorded a poll worker describing police intimidation and her eviction from a space that she was legally entitled to occupy. In Strongsville, a polling report on the OurVote website reported at 7am that “As soon as you drive into schoolyard, there are a number of McCain signs, and the only Obama sign is “Obama is for Death.”
But the more dramatic polling news is coming from elsewhere. Wilkes Barre in Pennsylvania has reported an armed police officer patrolling outside a polling center, due to “past altercations.” Down in Silver Spring, Alabama, a voter reported that “there is a long line outside the polling place and there are two police cars sitting outside” while “[police] officers are walking up and down the line and are talking to the election judge.”
Reports are flooding in from St Louis, Missouri, where voter suppression could be rife. Cases such as a voter in Ballwin, St Louis, are commonplace. In that instance, a voter who was “ registered to vote…is not showing up in databases and has been calling the St Louis County Board for two days, and hasn’t been able to get through to anyone.” Poll workers in St. Louis are demanding photo I.D. In some places, although Missouri does not require this.
An elderly voter at Meisner Elementary School was harassed by a poll worker who demanded proof of his signature. In response, the poll worker replied, “That’s how we do it here.” Some things never change.
Other precincts in St Louis are reporting huge lines along with shortages of machines and booths. It’s all adding up to a picture of chaos and turnout suppression not unlike Ohio in 2004.
If the OurVote database unfreezes, which it has decided to do, then updates will be forthcoming. If not, then we’ll rely on VTV shooters and other check ins for information. Stay tuned.
As we know, Barack Obama was pretty resoundingly victorious, and Cleveland was a party city for the night, as people struggled to digest a historic election. African-Americans in particular were often in tears – as tears mingled with laughter and joy. Veterans of the civil rights struggle told us that this was the day of their live
Fortunately for Cleveland, I shipped out of the city via the Amtrak in the early hours of the morning. During the day there were few major electoral problems, and certainly not the meltdown that we feared. The election of Democrats Jennifer Brunner (to be Ohio Secretary of State) and Ted Strickland (as governor) had a positive effect. As did radically overhauling the Cuyohoga County Board of Elections.
In many ways, the ghost of J Kenneth Blackwell had been exorcised, and John Ennis was ecstatic. I hesitate to say that he was bouncing off the walls. They were bouncing off him. Things were looking up for the Buckeye State.
Missouri, on the other hand, was a meltdown.