I've just returned from a trip around various polling locations in the north end and central city area of Toledo and I'm pleased to report no big problems, no long lines and very happy voters. While some areas had waits in the early morning, it was down to just a few minutes this afternoon.
I spent time at seven polling locations and, at each one, there were representatives from the Voter Rights Institute, Voter Protection Institute, County Issue 37 - the COSI levy, and the Democratic Party with slate card. At one location, a member of the UAW was there distributing a list of their endorsements.
Everyone reported that there were some lines in the morning, especially as the polls first opened up. This made sense to everyone working or volunteering for a campaign, since many wanted to vote before work and get it out of the way. In several locations, there were volunteers from Ann Arbor and locally who had on buttons that said 'line manager.' They were volunteering for the Obama campaign to help with long lines - and, as they explained, to go along and make sure everyone was ready with their ID, etc. so they would be ready to vote. When I spoke to these managers, there were no lines requiring their services.
The representatives from the Voter Rights Institute were pleasant, engaging voters and distributing lime green cards explaining their rights and the requirements. They made suggestions and reminded voters to remove their campaign buttons before entering the polling location, as the law requires. Voters were appreciative of this.
The representatives from the Voter Protection Institute were Obama campaigners, primarily attorneys, who spoke only to voters and not to any media. When I asked one of them which group they were with, VPI or VRI, she would only say that she didn't speak to the media, but when she displayed her tag, it said Voter Protection at the bottom. As she approached individual voters, though, they did not seem to receive her well, so maybe it was just her and not the organization.
All of the COSI levy supporters I spoke to said they had been asked to volunteer today and been requested to hand out information urging a yes vote on Issue 37. All explained that they did support the issue, but they had agreed to volunteer and this was what was asked of them.
I did meet a very impressive young man named Anthony who, at 19, had voted earlier in the week in his first presidential campaign. He was handing out COSI flyers and said he was enjoying the campaigning and would be likely to volunteer again next year. Good for him!
Having been one of those individuals who stands at a poll all day long, I truly appreciate the individuals who take their personal time and dedicate it to participation in the process.
As for election issues, most of the individuals said the problems had been minor and primarily upon opening as clarification for questions was made. Only in one location did there seem to be an issue with an observer speaking directly to the voters about things, instead of to the poll workers. I was standing within earshot as one of the presiding judges approached a Board of Elections troubleshooter and told him that the observer 'was at it again.' Apparently, this observer had been requested and told several times already that any issues he observed needed to be communicated to the poll workers and the presiding judge for the precinct - not directly to the voters. The troubleshooter then approached the observer to straighten things out.
I saw no instances of voter fraud, voter suppression and even found most people carefully following the 'no campaigning inside the flags' rule.
Additionally, many of the people I spoke to were happy and upbeat and said they'd been seeing the same attitude in others. The 70 degree, sunny weather obviously has a positive impact. Many of the long-time volunteers said their impression was that many of the voters were younger than they normally see and they were encouraged by this.
News reports indicate there are longer lines in some of the other areas of Lucas County, including Sylvania city and township where a merger issue is on the ballot. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said some of the longest lines in the state are here in Toledo. According to the chairman of the Lucas County Board of Elections, Patrick Kriner, she told him her office had three phone call complaints.
Kriner estimates that as of about 2 p.m., they'd had about 58% of registered voters cast their ballots.