17 October 2014

Nov 3- The Central Ohio Peace Network and the Toledo League of Pissed Off Voters organized an anti-war protest for today at 5:00 PM to send out the message that whoever the next president is, we need to end our occupation of Iraq. After hearing about Kerry's concession earlier in the day, the focus of the event at the Federal Building turned heavily towards expressing dissatisfaction with questionable election procedures.

One sign read, "Hundreds of thousands of voters suppressed- democracy failed." Written on another was, "Blackwell sucks," accompanied by a picture of ballots being sucked into a well.

A man who identified himself as David claimed that votes were lost because of Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's decision to only count provisional ballots that were cast at the correct precinct, and also because Republican workers "cleansed the voting lists," taking off people who had not voted in recent elections.

Yoshi Furuhashi was a vocal leader. She said, "Kerry already conceded. He is even more of a wimp than Gore!" She stressed that we need to bring back complete democracy to the country, and encouraged the crowd to "take this opportunity to send a statement to the rest of the world that we are not going to take it," referring to the war in Iraq, where she says that the American military is responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis, and also to the indirect disenfranchisement of many voters.

On Election Day, there were huge bottlenecks at democratic precincts, as poll worker Erin Deignan attested to. She worked at East Linden Elementary school, where there were only three machines. If everyone took 5 minutes to vote, she calculated that the maximum number of people that could vote in one day was 468, when there are 1100 registered voters assigned to that precinct. The judge in charge of a precinct near Victorian Village said that he had asked for ten machines and did not receive nearly as many. He estimated that almost 800 people would have time to vote, and said that there were over 3000 registered in the precinct. Another man at the rally described a similar number mismatch at his precinct, and was incensed at the lack of appropriate preparation, maintaining, "We paid them to set up enough machines to let everyone vote, not to make preparations according to anticipated voter turnout."

Whether this bottlenecking was intentional or not, it almost certainly caused many potential voters to turn away, although of course, it is impossible to calculate the exact number. It is arguably infeasible for senior citizens or the handicapped to wait in three or four hour lines. Many others had jobs that they have to get to, and students had tests to study for.

Election Protection volunteer Evelyn Van Till said that there were many students who applied for absentee ballots but did not receive them until Election Day or the day before. They were unable to mail them early enough to be received on the second, and unable to apply for a provisional ballot, having already applied for an absentee ballot.

At 6:00 the rally moved down to the Statehouse where police threatened to arrest those who would not disperse after two warnings. When it became clear that there were almost 30 activists who were prepared to be arrested, the police departed.

A significant impact of the rally was that it took the despondency and anger of the progressive community due to yesterday's outcome, and turned it into a positive energy, bringing forward the message that those who hope for peace, justice and democracy should not give up. There was singing and chanting at the statehouse as the rally evolved into a sort of peace vigil.