Election Day Voting Begins With Long Lines

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Updated: 10:00 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020

At least two-thirds of Cuyahoga County voters cast ballots in the general election.

By the time the polls closed Tuesday night, the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reported just over 600,000 people had voted in the county. That’s slightly higher than the number of people who had voted around the same time four years ago, but it trails vote totals in 2012 and 2008.

However, there are ballots still to be accounted for. More than 40,000 absentee ballots remain outstanding in the county, according to the secretary of state’s office. There are also provisional ballots left to count.

Boards of elections will accept late-arriving mail-in votes until Nov 13, as long as they were postmarked by Nov. 2.

Sunrise On Election Day

Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday with long but steady moving lines.

At St. Mel Church in Cleveland's West Park neighborhood, Riley McKenna, 18, stood in line to vote for the first time.

"I think this is a big year for politics, I think this is a big year for the whole world. I think nobody expected this global pandemic," he told ideastream's Gabriel Kramer. "I don't know, I guess it's just really tough to say how this will go, but I definitely am at least happy to be a part of it this year." 

Riley McKenna, first time voter outside St. Mel Church

[Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections expects all vote-by-mail ballots it received before Tuesday will be counted by its first report of results this evening.

According to the board’s director, Anthony Perlatti, they’d already opened and checked 280,000 of the more than 300,000 mail-in ballots before scanning started this morning.

“Staff have been working since October 6 to process those, in accordance with state statute,” Perlatti said during a morning call with reporters. “And we’re in a good position and will be able to have some robust reporting by 8:00 tonight.”

As of 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, voting was going mostly smoothly. The board of elections reported about 185,000 in-person voters, ahead of the peak expected in the evening hours before polls close at 7:30 p.m.

Reports of long lines at some polling sites around the county were not that surprising, said Perlatti, but unlike in Franklin County, they were not a result of e-poll book malfunctions.

“It’s the volume that we’re seeing and when we have some reduced equipment in some of these locations because of the pandemic,” Perlatti said. “And that’s why we’ve been saying for weeks – you’re going to wait a little longer when you go because there’s going to be less equipment because we need to space things out.”

The county is sending additional poll books to check in voters more quickly at sites where wait times are longest, including in Broadview Heights and Seven Hills.

Voting rights groups in Ohio raised concerns earlier in the day that Ohioans taking advantage of curbside voting were finding it’s unavailable at some locations.

According to Perlatti, the service was originally meant for people with accessibility issues, but was expanded this year due to the pandemic. He noted some voters may not understand the process.

“So what we’re seeing is a lot of people trying to utilize that but, like you wait in line to go inside, you wait in line for curbside voting,” Perlatti said. “And we don’t give preference over one or the other.”

He said curbside voting is available at all polling locations. Someone has to go inside the polling site and notify a worker then wait for a team to come out with a ballot to conduct the voting process.

Democracy in Tweets

Some polling sites started seeing lines by 5 a.m., and county elections officials expected the afternoon rush, from 4 to 6 p.m. to be the busiest time at polling sites.

Northeast Ohioans tweeted early morning pictures from their polling places. 

From Cleveland's West Side and the west suburbs:

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections is showing a 67 percent turnout in Rocky River including early and absentee ballots as of 1 p.m.

From Cleveland Heights where the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reports a 65 percent turnout including early and absentee ballots as of 1 p.m.:

At a 10 a.m. briefing with reporters, Perlatti said he expected a high turnout between early voting and at polling sites, and they may even exceed expectations.

“We are prepared to handle it,” Perlatti said. “We’re not going to compromise our processes or voter safety to try to get people through faster. It’s going to take a little longer, like everything does these days with social distancing.”

At St. Mel Parish, graduate student Veronica Martin drove to Cleveland from the University of Toledo last night so she could vote this morning.

“I care about our world and I care about the United States of America and our future. And with everything that’s going on in the world, I decided to drive the two hours from Toledo last night. Got in at midnight, voting now and then we’re going to make the two hour drive back to Toledo.”

Ceclia and Veronica Martin

Celia Martin with Veronica Martin (right) who said she had to find someone to fill in to teach her biophysical chemistry class at the University of Toledo Tuesday so she could make the trek to her polling place in Cleveland. [Gabriel Kramer / ideastream]

In Cuyahoga Couty, 90 percent of requested vote-by-mail ballots had been returned as of Tuesday morning, amounting to nearly 307,000 votes. During the early in-person voting period, 51,465 ballots were cast at the county Board of Elections office. 

The board predicts about a 70 percent turnout by the time voting ends at 7:30 p.m. That would mean about 630,000 voters casting ballots this year.

James Lamb outside Tremont Montessori School

James Lamb says he's been voting since he was 18 and likes the excitement of casting his ballot on Election Day. [Gabriel Kramer]

Outside a polling site at Tremont Montessori School in Cleveland, James Lamb said voting is the great equalizer.

“It’s an opportunity that I have as a Black man that is equal to a billionaire’s,” he said. “So I’m content every time I come to the polls.”

According to Perlatti, enough poll workers showed up this morning and there have been no reports of voter intimidation.

Over in Lorain County:

In Medina County:

According to the Secretary of State's office, Ohioans cast 3.4 million early in-person and absentee votes as of Monday evening. In addition to Election Day voting, unofficial voter turnout totaled 72 percent. More than 199,000 absentee ballots have yet to be returned.

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