In Cuyahoga County by 8:40 p.m., 603,293 votes had been reported as cast in person or in mail ballots, slightly fewer than the 603,822 votes of the 2016 presidential election. But absentee ballots postmarked yesterday will be accepted for 10 more days.
Big turnouts were also reported around the state and the country before and during Election Day.
Lines have been minimal at some Cuyahoga County polls and up to an hour long at others, but voting activists report no malfunctions or harassment here so far on the climactic day of a contentious, confusing election season. Around the country, relatively few problems surfaced today.
“It’s pretty cool to vote here,” Rob Kruty said while standing in a line that wrapped around the block at the former Q, now Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, a polling place today thanks in part to its former star, LeBron James, and his More Than a Vote organization. Inside the FieldHouse’s atrium, a big message board flashed bright artwork with slogans like “Vote Proud!”
On her way out, Sonia Vioculescu said, “It’s beautiful! It’s not for basketball today. It’s important that we wait in line and suffer a little, because it’s your citizen rights.”
Elections officials and activists reported few rejections and no harassment of voters. “It was good to see so many voters,” said Mike West, outreach manager for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. “We’re very thankful that everybody behaved themselves, and nobody came to the polls to disrupt anything.”
Khalilah Worley Billie, senior organizer for Greater Cleveland Congregations, said, “Things went fairly smoothly. There’s been some good energy. We didn’t experience any form of intimidation.”
In Franklin County, an electronic malfunction forced poll workers to process the morning’s voters by paper, and lines grew long. UU the Vote’s Rev. Joan Van Becelaere said there were a few moments around the state where voters were obstructed or intimidated, but her volunteers and law enforcement restored order.
Early and mail votes set records
Today’s turnout follows a record 3.4 million votes cast in Ohio through 2 p.m. Monday in person or with mail ballots. That number ran about 80 percent more than during the same period of 2016. It included 1.3 million votes in person and 2.1 million received by mail.
In Cuyahoga, 306,143 mail ballots were received, and 53,356 people voted early.
Turnout before today was huge nationwide. According to the US Election Project at the University of Florida, 99,657,079 million people voted early in person and 35,720,830 returned mail ballots through Monday, while 28,212,749 million mail ballots remained outstanding. Some states had already exceeded their total turnout in 2016’s general election.
But several voters said today that they still prefer showing up on Election Day.
“I never voted absentee in my 64 years,” said Ainette Banks, one of five voters in line at 6:30 am, when Jane Addams Business Careers Center opened its doors, as did other polls.
At Lincoln West, Carlos Jones said, “I started the process for an absentee ballot, but I never followed up because of the BS on the news.”
At Fairhill Partners at twilight, Clyde Smith said, “I like to vote on Election Day. I think it’s safer.”
Almost all voters came with masks, and others picked up free ones at the entranecs. At Morning Star Baptist Church, “Everyone’s been super respectful,” said Election Protection volunteer Doreen Katz (known to fans of mysteries as author D.M. Pulley).
Despite the pandemic, each of Ohio’s 88 counties found enough poll workers to open the usual number of polling places.
A long, strange election season
2020’s election season has been wilder than usual. The rules have changed and changed again for voting, for tallying, even for delivering mail. There have been many lawsuits, some still pending, and the U.S. Supreme Court has swung rightward. COVID-19 delayed Ohio’s primary and socially distanced today’s voters. Democrats have tried to boost the vote and Republicans to shrink it, partly through false claims of common fraud.
Robocallers have been accused of intimidating voters in Ohio and elsewhere. A couple of ballot boxes have been set ablaze. A few mail ballots have been dumped, and deliveries have slowed nationwide. President Trump has hinted about staying in office even if defeated by Joe Biden.
Officials hoped to complete the count tonight of all ballots received through today in person or by mail. But 243,023 absentee ballots remained outstanding statewide by Monday afternoon. Ones postmarked by Nov. 2 and received over the next 10 days will be included in the official election results. Secretary of State Frank LaRose must certify those results by Nov. 28th.
Then there’s no telling what the courts might do in Ohio and around the country.
Grant Segall is a national-prizewinning reporter who spent 34 years with The Plain Dealer. He has also published freelance articles, fiction, and “John D. Rockefeller: Anointed With Oil” (Oxford University Press).