California Leads, But Ohio Rules: How I Saw the Election in Ohio


The next thing we heard from our attorney inside the polling place was that the poll workers did not know the correct law regarding voter id and provisional ballots as specified in their own training materials. They were insisting that some voters vote provisionally that should have had regular ballots. We started educating people in line about the correct rules and instructing them that if they were told they had to vote provisionally, they should talk to us before they did. Toward the end of the day, a Democratic attorney and trouble shooter came by and asked us to get the total votes to that point and the number of provisional votes – there were about 11% provisional votes. He told us that in several other predominantly African American polling places such as Over The Rhine there had been 15%-20% provisional votes.

The first person in line had arrived at 5:45 am, 45 minutes before the polls were to open. After voting, he left two hours later. I can’t express how inspiring it was to see this long line of citizens so committed to casting their vote. Would you wait two hours and probably be late to work in order to vote? I worried especially about the many first-time voters – would this make them less or more likely to vote in the future? And I saw so many young people voting. Young men with their baggy pants hanging down around their knees, who I’d never have believed would vote. All sorts of people whose doors I’d knocked on in the preceding weeks, many of whom recognized me or vice versa. It was really fun and inspiring.

After a few hours, the Board of Elections sent over four additional voting machines, two additional poll workers and some extra supplies, in order to speed things up. By 9:00 am, the line was considerably shorter with about a 20 minute wait. By 10:00 am there was virtually no line, just voters arriving, voting, and leaving. By 11:00 am, 400 people had voted, over half of the 742 people who would vote in the precinct that day. After that it slowed considerably. By 4:00 pm another 250 people had voted, and in the last 3 ½ hours the final 100 people cast their vote.

Change Will Come

No patriotic American wants ineligible people to vote, nor ineligible votes counted. And no patriotic American wants to keep eligible voters from having their votes counted. But not everyone is patriotic, and the more that is at stake, the more self-interest can poison things. One thing that this election showed is that a well-organized grassroots campaign can mobilize underrepresented communities. And one thing that helps motivate those communities is attempts to keep them from exercising their legal right to vote. I told one middle-aged African American whose house I visited that we wanted people to early vote because we had concerns about what might happen at the polls on Election Day. He looked me in the eye and said, “We’re familiar with that, they’ve been trying to stop us from voting for decades.” Republicans face demographic challenges in the future, but it’s not because there are fewer ethnic, religious and sexual minorities and single women in their party. They have fewer minorities because their party is wedded to a fantasy of the past that doesn’t appeal to or address the needs of the future. Rather than trying to keep people from exercising their legitimate right to vote, they need to do something much harder: develop a fact-based, pragmatic and inclusive vision of and solutions for the America of the future.

Amy Pearl is a Certified Financial Planner®, Computer Scientist, and Community Contributor in Silicon Valley. She is Chair of the non-partisan Santa Clara County Citizens Advisory Commission on Elections. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she has lived in Silicon Valley since 1983.


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