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Government and Politics

Ohio voters might be tired of the ads, but take their role seriously
Early voting begins Tuesday with lines, and talk of hope and change
This story is part of a special series.

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Early voters began lining up in Stark County shortly after 7 a.m. on Tuesday, the first day of early voting.
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In The Region:

One of those swing states is Ohio, where early voting began yesterday . More than a million people have signed up for mail-in ballots and thousands more began voting in person. From member station WKSU, M.L. Schultze reports that swing voters in Ohio are taking their role seriously.

WKSU's M.L. Schultze's audio report on early voting in Ohio

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Gray drizzly days are generally not good days for voter turnout. And Ohio still has at least another 22 voting days before official Election Day.

But that didn’t stop people from lining up at the Board of Elections in Stark County, one of those quintessential swing counties in the quintessential swing state of Ohio. Voters here have been bombarded with TV ads, fliers, phone calls and campaign visits – and constant reminders Ohio voters have picked the winners in the last 12 presidential contests.  

Rose Ehmer and her husband pulled off Interstate 77 on their way to Florida, and waited nearly an hour outside the Stark County Board of Elections to vote.

 “We need a change, and I’m ready for the change. That’s the bottom line. I want to make sure my vote counts. It’s only one vote, but this gives me a right to complain. I voted.” 

The Ehmers were not the first in line. 

Ray and Ilene Schreffler also have their eye on the presidential race. They’ve just come to a different conclusion.

“We’ve gotta vote for Obamacare. My insurance is about ready to max out, and the poor people need the right to vote.” 

And then there's the paper ballots
Within minutes of the polls opening yesterday, two dozen people were lining up to use the touch-screen voting booths.  And more continued to flow in.

Meanwhile, elections officials have hired extra workers to handle the rush of mail-in absentee ballot requests.

They’re coming in at twice the pace of four years ago, after the state decided this year to send out absentee applications to every registered voter. That was to settle one of the disputes between Democrats and Republicans over early voting.

Karen Kirksey usually votes by mail, but this year, she’s taking no chances.

“I wanted to make sure I came down to vote this time. With all this hearsay about trying to block the vote, I just wanted to make sure I got here and got here early and got it out of the way.”

And the Obama camp has made early voting a priority, including get-out-the-vote sleepovers Monday night in heavily Democratic areas of the state.

Republicans have countered with “Commit to Mitt” kickoff events, including a mobile phone-bank bus tour.

Both Democrats and Republicans acknowledge the campaign in Ohio is now shifting from swaying voters, towards getting out the votes of those who have already made up their minds.

Trying to overcome apathy, spur the decided
Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez says early voting is important for  Democrats who hope this year will be more like 2008 – when Barack Obama won and Ohio Democrats did well in Congress – than 2010, when Republicans swept  every nonjudicial statewide office, including the governor.

“Apathy’s been a really big issue here particularly in Stark County and in Ohio. When you look at what happened two years ago, when the Democrats didn’t show up to vote, Ted Strickland lost just strictly because of apathy.” 

Janet Creighton is not conceding the early turnout to the Obama camp, but isn’t worried if it leans that way. The Republican Stark County commissioner was an alternate delegate at the GOP national convention.

“Republicans are good due-diligent voters. So it really doesn’t matter to me so much whether they vote today or on Nov. the 6th, as long as they do vote. And that has been the mission all along.”  

Save it for election day
And, Creighton says many people simply want to vote on Election Day.

People like Matt Trent, who says he likes the neighborly feel of a precinct. But one thing could make him vote early. 

“If there’s someone who ran on the policy saying if you vote early and vote for me, I’ll stop campaign ads, and all that, I would definitely do it. I feel like it’s a waste of money on both sides.” 

It’s a nice idea, but nothing is going to stop the TV ads, except, maybe, Nov. 7th the day after election day.

For NPR news, I’m M.L. Schultze in Canton, Ohio.

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