After ‘pesky’ issues on voting day, election protection advocates push for more improvements

Voters line up at Gender Road Christian Church on Tuesday. Photo by Susan Tebben

While election protection groups reported no major issues on election day, misinformation about curbside voting and some intimidation at the polls joined technical issues in affecting voter experience at the polls, they said Wednesday.

Record turnout encouraged groups like the Ohio chapters of the ACLU and the League of Women Voters, who held a media call to recap Election Day. That record turnout brought about expected technical issues, and also some issues with poll worker information.

“We generally think that the election went well in Ohio,” said Jen Miller, executive director of the League of Women Voters. “But, here’s the thing, the process was a lot harder on voters than it needed to be.”

Miller said they received “a large number of calls” regarding curbside voting, including some instances in which voters were turned away from the polls. Kayla Griffin of the Ohio chapter for the nonpartisan All Voting is Local said reports of curbside voting issues in Cleveland continued throughout the day, but that they still saw an uptick in curbside voting from 2016.

Some intimidation issues and demonstrations by campaign supporters were dealt with by a force of “peacekeepers,” brought together through Rev. Susan Smith and the nonpartisan Ohio Voter Outreach Committee.

“We didn’t have a whole bunch of drama, and that’s a good thing,” Smith said.

Reports of anti-abortion protesters and some people deliberately blocking parking spots at polling locations caused some nervousness, but no major events.

“It wasn’t major but it was pesky, that’s what it was,” Smith said.

Moving forward, the ACLU and the League of Women Voters are keeping to their message that every vote should be counted, including provisional ballots that won’t be certified for another two weeks.

Provisional ballots can be used in the event that a voter doesn’t have proper identification, or decided to vote in person after requesting an absentee ballot. If a voter needs to provide identification, for example, they need to provide that to the board of election before the two-week period has passed.

“The idea of counting every ballot matters,” Miller said.

The election protection groups also said they plan to continue their push for legislative change in the state to make voting even more accessible. More ballot boxes and multiple early voting sites are on their list of priorities, but at the top of the list is an online absentee ballot request form.

“If there was more of a one-stop process to going to the Secretary of State’s website to request it, we think that could alleviate a lot of this confusion that did occur with multiple mailings going to individual voters,” said Collin Marozzi, of the ACLU.

Curbside voting was been an option Ohio long before the global pandemic impacted Tuesday’s general election, but with many reports and questions surrounding the issue, Miller said the process and the training around the process needs improvement.

“I think we’re going to continue to have an aging population,” Miller said. “It is possible that we will have other, God forbid, pandemics or just really nasty flu seasons where folks who are immuno-compromised need to stay in their car,” Miller said.

The voter advocacy groups said the election results may not be decided nationwide, but the efforts to make sure elections continue to become more accessible.

“We know that until every Ohioan has far and equal access to the ballot, we still have more work to do,” said Kayla Griffin, of the Ohio chapter for the nonpartisan All Voting is Local.

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