AKRON, Ohio—On Saturday afternoon, at 1:45 p.m., I belatedly realized that early voting ended in 15 minutes. I drove from the DoubleTree hotel where Americans for Prosperoty were running local GOTV down to central Cincinnati. The early-vote line, for all of Hamilton County, stretched around the block.
I parked the car at 2:01, just after the last early voter, 53-year-old Carlton Poythress, was allowed to join the crowd. At least 200 voters, mostly black, waited in the rain. But Hamilton County is only 25 percent black. As a vender sold Pepsis and Mett's spicy hot dogs ("I've run out of buns twice!"), I talked to voters who were universally aware, and annoyed, at how early voting had been scaled back.
"I'm scared to death that democracy's going to die if they win," said Pothress, who was voting early because a job training session would occupy him on Tuesday. ("They" were the Republicans who opposed early voting.) "They worked so hard to bring down the president. What could he have done if they weren't so intransigent? We'd have passed a jobs bill by now. We had one ready."
I kept hearing that early voters ran to the polls on Saturday to avoid Sunday's crowds. Sunday would be taken over by the "souls to the polls" movement, a project of black churches all over the country to drive the vote directly from service to the early voting stations. "It was a madhouse last time," said Stacy Tompkins, who brought her 19-year-old daughter with her.
So today, I stopped by the Summit County early-voting station in Akron, around the same time Sherrod Brown would be there. The Democratic senator briefly greeted voters before speaking at a nearby Democratic "souls to the polls" support rally. Picnic tables were loaded with grilled meets bottled water and "Sherrod Brownies." None of it could be brought directly to the polls, but that didn't even seem necessary:
A two-hour line stretched from inside the polling station into the parking lots. Summit County is 15 percent black; this crowd was at least 60 percent black, and a lot of these voters had come independent of "souls to the polls." And most people I talked to, white and black, were Democrats. Rick ttSennebogan, the 61-year-old owner of a car-window-glass company, said he came early because "the Tea Party scares the shit out of me," and he worried about whether Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted (he volunteered the name) would change up the voting on Monday. Yvette McMillan, a fiftysomething black woman who worked at a women's shelter, brought her family to the polls and reminisced about how much easier this all was in 2008. "The vote was inside, so we weren't shivering out here," she said. "But I'm working 7 to 7 Tuesday, so I have to vote now."
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