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Few People, Lots Of Enthusiasm As Early Voting Begins In Cleveland

Ingrid Gillies, who voted early Tuesday morning, is a Case Western Reserve University junior. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]
Ingrid Gillies, who voted early Tuesday morning, is a Case Western Reserve University junior. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

About eight voters waited outside of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections before it opened Tuesday morning on the first day of early voting leading up to the Sept. 14 primary. They were voting moments after doors open, a stark contrast to the primary and general elections of 2020, where long lines of people showed up for early voting.

The turnout in 2020 was driven by a presidential election. No such national contest is on the ballot this year. Seven Northeast Ohio communities are voting, with the biggest race being the contest for Cleveland mayor. Seven candidates are competing in the primary.

Very few people had to wait to get assistance from a poll worker Tuesday morning. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Julie Washington, a reporter for The Plain Dealer newspaper, cast the first ballot in Cleveland's mayoral primary.

Mark DiDonato from the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood was also among the first few voters of the day.

He got his ballot in about 10 minutes after early voting started.

“The way I look at it is if I can get my vote cast as soon as possible, then that’s less energy the campaign of the person I choose. They can spend more energy trying to sway undecided voters,” DiDonato said.

For Kenneth Tutstone, a Ward 5 resident, the reason to vote early was simple – convenience. He encourages others to do the same.

“You got a choice. Get it on over with,” Tutstone said.

Sherifatu Kafaru filled out her ballot surrounded by a room of empty voting stalls. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

While only a handful of people were eager to head to the polls, Sherifatu Kafaru from Cleveland’s Ward 4 showed enough excitement for the whole city.

Kafaru said she had been waiting for this day since 2017’s mayoral election.

“I’ve been ready. I’ve been waiting. I could show you a sticky tab in my car. I wrote down: ‘Go vote today. Go vote.’ I dropped my daughter off at school. I came right down here to vote. I am so serious about us having a new mayor because this is a great city,” Kafaru said.

Sherifatu Kafaru left several reminders for herself to vote the day early voting started. She even wrote her candidate's name – Ward 7 Councilman Basheer Jones – in her phone's calendar. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Mayoral candidate Justin Bibb showed up to the Board of Elections at about 9 a.m. with two of his campaign’s volunteers – James Carney and Ingrid Gillies – both of whom were voting in their first Cleveland mayoral election.

“In this kind of election where we’re not going to probably have high voter turnout, every vote counts,” Bibb said.

Ingrid Gillies (left) and James Carney (right) both voted in a Cleveland mayoral primary for the first time Tuesday. [Gabriel Kramer / Ideastream Public Media]

Carney, a student at American University in Washington, DC, leaves for school later this week.

“Cleveland will always be home to me. I’ll always want to see Cleveland be better than the Cleveland I’ve grown up in,” Carney said. “I think there’s no better way to influence change than voting.”

Gillies, a Case Western Reserve University student, jumped for joy as she stepped out of the Board of Elections building and saw her friends waiting in the parking lot.

“Seeing young people who also share similar interests with me about politics and local politics makes me really excited,” Gillies said.

Mike West, a spokesperson for the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said the board expects about 15% voter turnout for this primary.

Early in-person voting information. [Cuyahoga County Board of Elections]

In addition to Cleveland, voters in Bay Village, Cleveland Heights, East Cleveland, Garfield Heights, Lakewood and Solon will cast ballots in the September 14 primary.

Gabriel Kramer is a reporter/producer and the host of “NewsDepth,” Ideastream Public Media's news show for kids.