By Zoisa Fraser in Ohio
(Stabroek News is one of two Caribbean media houses chosen to participate in the Ohio Election Night Tour organised by the US Department of State’s Foreign Press Centre.)
Hundreds of Cleveland, Ohio residents on Saturday turned up at the Guyahoga County Board of Elections building to participate in early voting and many said they made this decision because of their busy during-the-week schedules.
Tomorrow is elections day and it was expected that the number of early voters would increase dramatically by the end of yesterday as many hurry to cast their ballots to not only avoid the last minute rush but to ensure that no sudden events or emergencies deny them the opportunity to vote.
Executive Assistant for the Director of the Board of Elections, Greg Beyer told Stabroek News that officials there had been processing over 400 persons per hour. He said that the centre opened at 8 am and would close at 4 pm. Later, he told foreign journalists participating in an election tour organized by the United States Department of State, Foreign Press Centre that the count stood at just over 1800 persons in the first four hours. When journalists spoke to him at around 1 pm there was a long line of persons waiting to get in to vote and it was expected that the average hourly number would be climbing throughout the day. Over 20 million Americans have already cast early votes.
“It has been busy so far. Probably our busiest day of early voting that we had so far”, he said, adding that this was anticipated because the last weekend before elections, “is typically the busiest weekend for early voting”.
Explaining the voting process he said that when people arrive the officials first verify that they are registered voters and then they are given the ballot which matches the precinct they are from. He said that the voter then completes the ballot given to them, marking their choices for the range of contests – state and presidential. That completed ballot is then placed in an envelope which is sealed and placed into a ballot box.
According to Beyer, all the ballots are secured in a locked area. He said too that someone is on hard to assist voters with any concerns they may have. He added that some persons managed to complete the process in about ten minutes but some were taking longer because of the large numbers turning up.
He said that so far there have been no complaints or problems. He described the day’s proceedings as “very smooth”.
Meanwhile, the voters this newspaper spoke with had no complaints and said that the process was simple and quick.
Jennifer McCall said that this was her first time participating in early voting and she found the process easy. She said that once you pre-select your candidates the process takes less time. “It took me about ten to fifteen minutes. Very easy process, smiling faces and easy lines to get through”, she said. She added that her decision to do early voting was because “you have children, you have a work schedule and its best to do it when you have a clear mind and no distractions so you can make the right choice”.
Her sister Zipporah had voted early in a previous election. She said that she prefers to vote early because of convenience and to avoid long lines. “It was really seamless. They took their time …it was really quick and didn’t take long at all”, she said. Asked which candidate, she supports she responded “women”.
Sixty-eight-year old Randy Garner described the process as beautiful and said that he always votes early because “a lot of people died for our chance to vote”.
The veteran who now sells roses to earn a living said he had no problems. “Everybody was so nice and they directed me where I needed to go and there was another person at the stop”, he said. Asked who he is supporting he responded “take a guess. I am a black person you think I would vote for Donald Trump? Do you really think that?”
“Let’s go Hillary! Because we cannot have no damn Donald Trump in our office or the White House”, he said, adding that he disliked Trump for a number of reasons including that he is a racist.
Steve Siemborski said that this is his first early voting experience and he made this decision this time around because he works out of town. According to Siemborski, he has divided his vote: Hillary Clinton for president and Republicans for the other positions.
Asked why he said “you gotta pick the (better) of the two to be honest”. He said that he works in business and as such he wants to keep his tax dollars to himself, something that the Republicans are more in favour of. He said overall he did not agree with most of what Trump and the Republicans have said, hence his support for Clinton as president.
He expressed hope that in the next election the Republican Party will get its act together and choose a better presidential candidate.
The Clinton camp in a section of Ohio reported a poor voter turnout on Saturday and said that volunteers are going door to door to encourage persons to come out and vote. Polls show Trump with a slight lead over Clinton. Ohio is a swing state and often a key predictor of who will win the White House.