Ohio early voting rules work against voters from heavily populated counties

Line for early voting on Saturday, November 3 outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections. Photograph by David Pepper.

Early voting for this 2012 election season comes to an end today. Those registered to vote, in Hamilton County, will be able to do so by visiting the Board of Elections office at 824 Broadway Street from 8am to 2pm.

According to the Hamilton County Board of Elections, 564,429 people have been registered to vote in Hamilton County – a number slightly higher than that in 2008. The difference between 564,429 voters in 2012, however, is that their early voting days have been greatly reduced.

On top of the reduced number of days to vote early, voters across Ohio are only allowed to cast an early vote at one location per county. This means that voters in heavily populated counties with big cities are subjected to longer waits. So far, voters in Hamilton County have reported up to 4.5-hour-long waits downtown.

Polling numbers show an incredibly tight presidential race that may come down to how Ohio votes on Tuesday. Furthermore, with Hamilton County being the most populated swing county in Ohio, the race for the presidency may end up being decided in Cincinnati. It’s no wonder President Obama (D) held a rally before 13,500 people at the University of Cincinnati last night.

UrbanCincy would like to see all voters offered the opportunity to cast their ballot for every election. It is extremely unfortunate, however, that the cities are at the front line of having voting capacity restricted.

Not only do politicians in Washington D.C. rarely talk about cities, which include the vast majority of Americans, but the fact that a segment of those politicians are actively working to reduce the ability of urban voters to vote is truly disgusting.

While it is too late to change anything for this election, we would like to see the administration of Governor Kasich (R) move quickly to expand early voting for future elections, and expand the number of voting locations in each county based on population totals.

  • Zan McQuade

    Just so everyone knows, if you are in line at a polling station when the polls close, you still are entitled by law to vote. They can stop letting people join the line at 7:30pm on Tuesday, but they can’t deny anyone the right to vote if they are in line by 7:30pm. If you are challenged, call 1-877-SOS-OHIO or 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

  • Jeff Klein

    My god – is this post serious? Anyone that doesn’t want to wait in a line could either vote by absentee or at their polling location which will be in their own neighborhood. With all of these people voting early, the polls should be much less crowded on Tuesday. You’re grasping for straws here.

    • Not really trying to grasp for anything. I just believe that in the year 2012 that our voters shouldn’t be subjected to such ridiculous measures that require them to wait in the cold for 4-5 hours in order to cast their ballot.

      Making voting more accessible is a major win for democracy. The more people that participate, the better.

    • Jeff Klein

      No one is “required to wait in the cold for 4-5 hours in order to cast their ballot.” Not one single person. Don’t be ridiculous and make stuff up.

    • If so many people want to vote early, then why don’t we make it easier on the hundred thousand or so citizens that want that option?

  • Tony DeBlasio

    I went to the Hamilton County Board of Elections last week on Wednesday and voted early during the Early Voting period. I had to wait in line for maybe twenty minutes. Go to the Board’s website and look at the calendar. You have had the opportunity to go and vote Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. plus additional hours and weekend days closer to election since as early as October 15. This doesn’t even factor in the convenience of absentee ballots. What more do you want to do to possibly make it any easier for people to be able to vote? Based on this, please explain to me how this ridiculous notion could possibly be argued that “cities are at the front line of having voting capacity restricted” or the even more hilarious comment that these plentiful chances to vote “reduce the ability of urban voters to vote.” No Randy – this far-fetched article is instead the very thing that to me and any other reasonable individual in this country is “truly disgusting.”

    • mattrisher

      What about people with no access to computers, or no computer literacy? Or those whose low income situations demand that they move so often that they can’t rely on receiving mail accurately? Should their votes and opinions just not matter?

  • Vinton County (Ohio’s least populated) has just 13,435 residents. Cuyahoga County (Ohio’s most populated) has 1,280,122. That means Cuyahoga’s single early voting location is expected to serve 95 times more residents. How does that make sense?

    I early-voted a few weeks ago and lines were already starting to get long. Some people got inside and immediately turned back because they didn’t put enough time on their meter, or didn’t have the time to wait.

    Yes, it is true that absentee ballots and voting on Election Day are options, but Ohio should serve its residents better by providing the service they obviously want — early voting — and adding more polling places in areas that make sense.

    Then again, with all of the shenanigans that Ohio’s Secretary of State has been pulling this year regarding the election (i.e., attempting to expand early voting hours in counties like Butler and Warren while eliminating night and weekend early voting in Hamilton and other urban counties), I doubt state leadership has any real desire to improve the early voting process.

  • Jeff Klein

    Let’s turn all the UDFs into early voting polls! Open 24-hours a day year round!

    This is just ridiculous – people have had 17 days to early vote, plus absentee plus tomorrow in their neighborhood. You guys are better than this.

    • It’s bad service. Plain and simple. People always say they want government to be more efficient, more accountable, and more responsive. Yet when it is proposed that government do just that, it is somehow too much to ask for. There is absolutely no reason on Earth why people should have to wait 4-5 hours in the cold just so that they can cast their ballot.

      If we all believe in supply and demand, then let’s believe it in this case too. Clearly the voters of Ohio want more early voting options, not less. So what’s the problem with providing good service to the hundred thousand or so residents out there that enjoy this early voting option?

    • What do you know… local media outlets are reporting long waits at most Hamilton County polling places today. Even with 17 days of early voting. Sounds like we need to expand early voting even more.

    • Jeff Klein

      I thought the point of your article was that urban voters were being
      discriminated against? We have a right to vote in this country but not a
      right to vote without waiting in line. Yes, it would be nice if
      everyone had no wait, but everyone had the opportunity to mail in their
      ballot this year. Additionally, is it any surprise that there are long
      lines at a government-led activity? Are you advocating for additional
      hours at the BMV? I mean, every time I go to the BMV there are long
      lines. Perhaps they should be open until 10 PM or on weekends or
      24-hours a day. What about the social security office? The court
      house? It would be nice if the post office were open later too but
      obviously all of these ideas are completely unreasonable.

      It’s problematic, but again – every single person in Ohio could have voted
      via mail and had no lines. You can’t expect voting to go perfect

    • I agree, voting hours should go longer into the evenings, and should also be made available on additional weekends leading up to the election. Not everyone has the ability to get off work, or show up late to work during the week.

      I just don’t understand. If a private business were experiencing heavy customer demand, they would expand hours of operation to meet that demand. In Ohio, and many other states around the country, it seems clear that the demand for greatly expanded early voting is strong and that additional polling locations need to be added.

      This isn’t the Post Office, DMV, or any other government office. Voting is our core fundamental right as Americans, and it should be protected by all means necessary, and that includes making it readily accessible to every registered voter.

    • Tony DeBlasio

      You literally ignored everything in Jeff’s argument.
      Mail in an absentee ballot, and then you won’t have to complain about waiting in line.
      He didn’t agree with you that hours should be expanded. Good luck telling a government employee to stay at work past 4:30 p.m. I’m also sure that the mandatory government overtime would also be very budget-friendly.
      You could have the polls open 24/7 year-round, and you’d still have the majority of people showing up the weekend before and the day of the election. The line situation wouldn’t change one bit.

    • Obviously we’re not going to convince “Tony” or “Jeff” that long lines are a problem.

      Fortunately, our president seems to understand that it’s a problem. From his victory speech on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning: “I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.”

    • Hard Left Dem

      of course the president wants to fix it, it is beneficial to the democratic party..which is the reason for randy’s post..just be honest about it, expansion of early voting is good for dems so that is why you guys support it

    • It’s just good for democracy in general. A more engaged/active electorate should be a goal held by all political parties.

    • Hard Left Dem

      i don’t completely disagree but you have to draw the line somewhere, it does cost money to run the early voting stations and i think you reach the point of diminishing returns pretty quickly on just how widely available early voting needs to be

    • That’s a fair point. My thought is just that money should not be a factor in what is the absolute most fundamental part of a democracy…especially one as great as America’s.

    • So you’re saying that when more people vote Democrats benefit? And that when fewer people vote Republicans benefit? Just want to make sure I’m clear on your point.

    • Hard Left Dem

      You are putting some words in my mouth, because I did not say that. But as a political junkie, I am happy to engage further: it really depends on what type of voting you are talking about. The breakdown is usually as follows, at least in swing areas (places with about the same level of dem/rep support):

      1. Reps dominate absentee/mail voting.
      2. Dems dominate early, in-person voting.
      3. Reps dominate day of election, in-person voting.

      It stands to reason that each party is going to advocate for what is best for them. Dems want as much early voting as possible because it gives them a larger window to work on GOTV efforts. They advocate for this under the guise of the “giving everyone equal opportunity to engage in the democratic process” but they are really just advocating for it because it helps them win elections. Reps aim to restrict early voting as much as possible and do so under the guise that it is not logistically feasible or they use the cost of it as an excuse but they are really just trying to restrict it because it hurts the Dem GOTV machine and helps the Reps win elections.

      The key is to take a pragmatic approach and find a good balance. I personally do not want to make voting “too easy” for low information voters to vote, not to mention having the polling stations open every day for a month before the election is cost prohibitive. As a voter we owe it to the rest of the electorate to make a small sacrifice and take some time out of our schedule to learn the issues and candidates that we are voting on and cast our vote. Whether it is early, filling out a mail ballot or in person on election day, there is some level of personal sacrifice involved. Early voting is certainly necessary in some capacity, my only point is that more of it may not be the answer; maybe just fewer days but longer hours on those days will give everyone an adequate opportunity. Additionally, there should be a concerted effort by the SoS to encourage more and more people to vote by mail thus further lessening the lines on election day.

      Unfortunately, given the highly polarized and partisan nature of our society today and the current two-party system, whatever tact the SoS takes will likely depend on whether that person has a D or R behind their name and little thought will be given to what is best for the electorate as a whole.

  • Why do people get so upset at trying give people every opportunity to vote?
    OH yeah, because those voters might not be white, working jobs where they can show up late or leave early to vote.

    Its really an educational issue and the message isn’t filtering down to the people who need it most.

  • Hard Left Dem

    I am outraged that I cannot vote via text message.

    • Tony DeBlasio

      on your obamaphone

  • Mark Christol

    They have been shutting down / consolidating normal polling locations. Expecting extended hours downtown seems unlikely. Our county commissioners have more important stuff to spend their money on than the BOE. y’know, like sports facilities….

  • ocschwar

    Folks, just so you know, the whole country is watching. These shenanigans will throw your state into disrepute.

  • Funny, two co-workers complaining bitterly about early voting yesterday both came in late today. Like I tried to tell them yesterday, not everyone has the luxury of coming in late to work with no repercussions.

    • mattrisher

      Exactly. If I just came in to work late on a whim, I would lose my job. Then I would need a handout. It’s a luxury I don’t have. Early voting made my vote count. I am also white and have never collected unemployment.

  • Voting in-person the day before the election really isn’t the best time to vote. Although there could easily be a second early voting location at the library.