2.11.08

campaigning in ohio - dispatch #5

i/we crafted an op-ed that just went up at alternet.org. BEHOLD AN EXCERPT:

"I've thought of more excuses why not to vote, why not to do this," Bobby told us. "And each time, it has cost me more than it would have cost me to get up off my a** -- excuse my French -- and try to make a change."

So said Bobby Johnson in the back of one of our Vote Today Ohio shuttles. When he spotted our van at the Bishop Cosgrove Centre, a food pantry in Cleveland, he climbed right on in. He hadn't voted in years, but on October 4th, 2008, Bobby became one of the 67,408 Ohioans who cast a ballot during the first week of Ohio's new Early Voting period.

We have seen and heard Bobby's story repeated from Cincinnati to Youngstown, from Athens to Toledo. So many unlikely voters we drove to Ohio Early Voting Centers represent this truth: elections are changing. You might even say democracy itself, in fact, is changing. For the better.

Ohio no longer has an Election Day. Innovative updating of the process has now yielded an Election Month. And we've seen the embracing of this change in the faces of the very voters most positively impacted by it.

This year, an estimated 1 out of 3 Americans will cast their ballot either through absentee or early voting. Colorado is even expected to see half its turnout amongst early voters. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner opened Early Voting Centers in every county on September 30 and will keep them open through November 3. She has gone openly and vehemently on the record as supporting Early Voting as a means of broadening access, and estimates that "25 percent of Ohio's registered voters, or the number of voters voting, will have voted before Election Day."

...

Our vans have transported all manner of Ohioans -- of Bobby Johnsons -- who are unlikely to have voted otherwise. Nick drove an elderly Dayton man to vote early who figured his absentee ballot would be lost at the housing project where he lives. Caty drove Columbus college students who were too excited to wait until November 4. Erik drove a transient Cincinnati woman who for forty years, has abstained from elections, thinking her vote didn't matter. Rafiq has driven countless young Cleveland men who most people fear or overlook as part of the urban scenery.

Moving nearly 3500 Ohioans to Early Voting Centers has helped us understand all too well why opponents would devote precious time and resources to convincing the public that early voting is trouble: because it helps bring marginalized people in from the margins. And that must threaten them to the bone. Challenging democracy, indeed.

Vote Today Ohio is eagerly calling any and all volunteers to help with the final push.

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