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Voter 'Drive' Aims To Bring Cleveland Residents To The Polls

Voters are reflected in a window as they wait in line to participate in early voting at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Cleveland. [Tony Dejak / AP]
Voters are reflected in a window as they wait in line to participate in early voting at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Cleveland.

A Cleveland group is providing free rides to voters who need assistance getting to the polls in Cuyahoga County and local nonprofits are helping.

About 70 volunteers have completed training to drive voters to and from the polls as part of Voter Drive CLE. The initiative aims to assist residents who cannot get themselves to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections due to barriers such as a disability or lack of transportation.

“We want everybody to vote, to know that their voice matters, and we will do what we can to get you there,” said co-founder Paula Kampf.

Local nonprofits including the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Cleveland Public Theater, Global Cleveland and Hola Ohio are partnering with Voter Drive CLE to provide drivers and connect with residents in need of assistance.

Anyone seeking a ride can schedule it by phone, email or through Voter Drive’s website, Kampf said, and the group is partnering with two professional transportation companies to help those with special accommodations such as wheelchairs.

“Ideally, you call a little bit ahead of time, a few days ahead of time, to make sure we’ve got a good match for you,” Kampf said.

Drivers will be equipped with sanitization kits to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, she said, and cars will be cleaned after each trip. Windows will be rolled down when possible and masks will be required, Kampf said.

“We know that COVID is part of the reason that people are going to be hesitant to take public transportation and that people are going to be hesitant to stand in line,” Kampf said. “That’s some of the motivation for doing this entire project.”

Voter Drive CLE will host a caravan Saturday alongside Cleveland City Councilman Kerry McCormack, where voters can join a parade of cars headed to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. Participants will drive themselves during the first event, Kampf said, which is meant to encourage voter participation.

“Gathering people to feel like a community and like our voices as a community matter is a big motivation for doing these kinds of caravans that we’re doing,” she said.

Future caravans are being set up for the week of Oct. 19 to pick up voters from areas where they might otherwise have difficulty getting to the polls, she said, including Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority properties and senior living spaces.

“We’re going to start having caravans from different locations,” Kampf said. “We will have our drivers line up there and be ready to take people to the polls.”

The organization provided its first ride this week, Kampf said, and expects demand to increase as the election approaches.