As many of you know already, Ohio is one of several states that offer early in-person absentee voting prior to election day. Unlike many other states, however, it also offers residents the chance to register and vote all in the same building on the same day. Since I live a half-block from my actual polling place I had originally decided not to vote early, but the Obama campaign sent me an email last week urging that supporters go out and take advantage of the early voting window, and so I did it this morning. Below is my story.
I am not a new voter - I have been registered since 1998 (my 18th year of life!), and have voted in every presidential election since 2000, but I have never voted early in my life. So I was not sure on what to expect. I woke up a little bit early today and took the bus to work - luckily for me, the Veteran's Memorial where early-voting is done is just a block up from my usual bus stop.
When I arrived, it looked immediately like a media circus. Correspondents from all sorts of outlets were assembled, with cameras, tape recorders, and notepads - some from NPR, PBS, CBS, NBC, and a large number of other initialisms - and they were hovering around a medium-sized group that had assembled at the doors by the time I got there at 7:50am, mere minutes before the polls were set to open.
Besides the many media-men, I noticed also a rather large group of college-aged students huddling by the door. Apparently they had stayed overnight in the area - the Obama campaign made a special effort to arrange transportation and camp-lodgings for a large number of OSU students who sat out all night last night (and it was not particularly warm in Ohio!), in anticipation for their time at the polls. They offered coffee and donuts to everyone (including the press - no doubt through inspiration from Joe Biden), and I started mingling with the group, as I had about ten minutes to kill.
One of the first people I spoke to was named Aaron - he was eighteen years old, and this was his first time ever voting... EVER. He was with a group of people who were slightly older than he - one was a transplant newly arrived from Michigan who had not had the opportunity to vote for Obama on his primary ballot earlier in the year, and so he was incredibly excited to finally cast his ballot for the Senator. He said, "I may just cry when I see his name on the ballot."
Another young man had never been registered at all - he was one of the same-day register-and-vote participants, and so he managed to get an inordinate amount of attention from the press. Apparently (at least according to the NPR fellow that was interviewing him nearest me) in light of the legal challenges waged by Republicans against this early-vote window (challenges which have failed, luckily), there was some uncertainty as to whether people would be allowed to take advantage of the register-then-vote window... But the young man did not run into any problems with his attempt.
I happened to be the only person in our segment of the rather long line that had brought along a sample ballot from the Ohio Dems, and so I passed it around while we were waiting so that others knew with whom they were allied, and for whom they should vote (especially in those pesky Judgeships and Education positions that do not have party affiliation listed).
By the time the doors opened, the young voters from OSU were in such an excited state that they were doing the usual cheer - one person shouts "OH," while the rest echo "IO!" thereafter - and the atmosphere was in some ways more akin to a football stadium than a voting precinct. The dozens of us who had arrived before the doors closed streamed in, and those who needed to change their addresses (or register) were able to do so seamlessly before ballots were printed, and we were each ushered into a specific booth.
I was surprised to find out that the ballots were on paper - having never voted early before, I was expecting Diebold machines like you'll see on election day. Overall things went incredibly smoothly, and I can already tell that my state will not be absorbed in the same chaos, confusion, and disenfranchisement that characterized 2004.
If today's experience is any indicator, I think it's safe to say that Ohio is going to go blue - and in a big way - come November.
UPDATE: Just wanted to thank everyone for my first rec listed diary! Woohoo, go Obama!