Nov. 2 – 9:12pm EST
In one of the most phenomenal voter turnouts in American history, voters in the predominantly Democratic wards in the city of Columbus, Ohio dug in for the long wait to vote against Bush. When the polls closed at 7:30pm in the inner-city 55th ward, the four polling places contained scores of voters facing up to a two-hour wait.
It all seemed personal. There was a real sense among the poor and minority voters that they were making history. One older African American man quietly sang to himself “Ain’t gonna turn me around, turn me ’round…” When I decided to vote myself at 3pm when there was the shortest line of the day, I found myself between Mr. Young, an older African American man, who’d left earlier because of the osteoarthritis in his hip. He had returned with a folding chair in high spirits, proclaim in to all who could hear that he was willing to wait all night to vote. On the other side of me was Mrs. Meredith, a youthful-looking 80, who softly told me that she was there to vote for Mr. Kerry because she had lost two relatives, including a brother in World War II. “I don’t like war,” she said. Nor did the elderly African American woman like the party-like atmosphere that had broken out at the Model Neighborhood facility because she felt it wasn’t dignified.
Still, the election judges didn’t seem to mind the fact that people had ordered in pizza for the wait that lasted more than three hours at various times in the day. The wealthier white people who had recently filtered in to the gentrified neighborhood kept showing up with free pop, juice and food for those waiting inside. The neighborhood known for its tension, captured in a PBS documentary, between traditional black residents and newly arriving white, many of them gay, suddenly were all working together. It was true. President Bush was a “uniter, not a divider.” The neighborhood was at the height of its solidarity as blacks and whites expressed their joy in voting against Bush. One white male wore a tie dyed peace sign shirt with the words “Recovering Bystander.” One woman left happy that Bush would soon be homeless like of her former neighbors.
An hour and 35 minutes later I quickly cast my ballot with the “five minute voting rule” imposed by the presiding judge.
Over in the much poorer Ward 5 at the Hope Lutheran Church reported the average wait to be three hours and thirty-five minutes at 3:30 in the afternoon, but reported a steadfast calm and an attitude that the people in line had expected a long wait. The Republican and Democratic challengers appeared to be getting along quite well, as rumors circulated that Republican Governor Robert Taft had instructed the controversial Republican poll challengers to go easy on challenges. At two other Ward 5 polls, Free Press staffers reported frightened Republican poll challengers who had little stomach to directly challenge the overwhelmingly and determined throngs of voters.
The Free Press observed long lines not only in the inner-city black wards, but in all the traditional core Democratic areas: German Village, the Short North and Clintonville.
“I voted at Medary School on Indianola today, which houses Precinct A and C. There wre four voting machines for C and three for A The gym was packed solid within only two regular poll workers for each precinct (though there were judges --I guess--and two other people, for each precinct to take your slip, get you in the booth, and hand you a sticker). I got there at approximately 10:40 and had to wait 2 1/2 hours. When I left the lines were just about the same as they had been when I went in. I don't remember how many machines have been there in the past,” reported Free Press writer Marley Greiner.
But in Columbus’ affluent suburbs, another story was being told. Here are the words of Free Press columnist Marty Yant: “Voting in Grandview was a breeze. I was in and out in 20 minutes at 3:30, which admittedly is a good time to vote. The student-rich Columbus ward voting in the same building had a very long line. I didn't see a challenger in the Grandview ward, but there was at least one in the Columbus ward. A young man was being forced to use a provisional ballot in the short time I was there. He looked disgusted.
I talked to an Upper Arlington woman at Kroger's who had a similar experience. She said she got right in and out, but the neighboring Columbus ward had a long line.”
Former Columbus School Board member Bill Moss, voting at Franklin Middle School, told the Free Press, “I’ve been voting since 1955. I have never, ever seen anything like this. These people know they’re making history. It reminds me of watching the first-ever vote in South Africa.”
Since I had been an international election observer in the first free election in El Salvador, I knew what he meant. There was something un-American about this election. By God, Bush had restored democracy. People were voting as if it were Canada or western Europe. Adding to the atmosphere was the fact that virtually all the reporters at the Model Neighborhood facility polling site were foreign: Japanese public television, German TV, the London Times, scattered among the token Pacifica reporter and a few of Michael Moore’s documentary filmmakers.
Speaking of Mr. Moore, he was experiencing a similar Eminem mosh pit in Cleveland: “We’ve only got two hours left on the East Coast! I am in Cleveland and the turnout is huge. It was the same this morning as we went to polling sites in Florida. People waited for three hours to vote, but no one was deterred. One man told me "I’d wait in this line three days if I had to." It’s raining here in Ohio, we’ve got a big bus and we’re pulling people out of their homes (gently!) handing out free umbrellas, ponchos, and bottles of water (the last item being slightly unnecessary, considering how soaked all of us already are!). I’ve been getting early tracking results from across the country and things are looking good - very good. But anything can happen in the last few hours. People are just getting out of work. The lines are going to be enormous. Tell everyone you know - as long as you are IN LINE before the closing time, they HAVE TO let you vote.”
Judging the unprecedented voter turnout I observed at the eight polling places in the inner-city of Columbus, it seems highly improbable that even the notorious Bush family, with all its covert operatives and CIA ties, can steal this election. If they attempt to do so, I fear there will be a terrible reckoning, and a terrible swift sword of justice will be visited upon us in the form of civil insurrection.
See “Mosh” by Eminem at www.mtv.com.
Edited Nov. 3
Nov. 2 – 9:12pm EST