Might the fitting slogan have been “yes, we can!”? For all the tub-thumping about voter suppression in recent weeks, voter enthusiasm appeared the rule of the day on Tuesday with the start of in-person, early voting in Ohio. In Cleveland, voters camped overnight at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to get a jump on the early balloting. In Akron, Democrats rallied at the Summit County board in the afternoon.
Across Ohio, especially in the larger cities, similar events took place, voters taking advantage of the multiple ways to cast ballots. This isn’t to diminish the legal battles being waged, or to deny the obvious: Many Republicans looked at the profile of early voters, more likely to be Democrats, and sought to curb the option. At the same time, voting is much easier in Ohio than in many other states, Michigan and Pennsylvania, for instance. For the first time, every Ohio voter has received, or will, an application for an absentee ballot. Already, more than 920,000 have applied.
As of today, Ohio voters have 21 days to cast in-person early ballots, in Summit County at the elections board on Grant Street in Akron. That leaves plenty of opportunities for mobilizing and casting votes. From Monday, Oct. 22, to Thursday, Nov. 1, the early polls at the elections board will be open an additional two hours, or until 7 p.m.
Ideally, Summit would have a more spacious voting center, as in 2008 and 2010. The elections board faces a stern test as early voting climbs with the approach of Election Day. Better, too, Ohio would have in-person, early voting on at least one weekend. As it is, voters may benefit from early voting on the weekend before the election. A federal judge opened the door, arguing that if military voters have the option, so should the rest of voters. An appeals court now is weighing the matter.
Such changes aren’t about favoring one party. Turnout in Summit and Cuyahoga counties actually declined in 2008. The purpose is convenience, avoiding the long lines of eight years ago, adjusting to the changing patterns in our lives. What’s good to see is voters seizing the opportunities.