The following is a report on a voting issue in Bowling Green Ohio. In order for this incident to be legally considered voter suppression one must prove that the person responsible had the intention to suppress votes. Proving what someone was intending to do is a difficult thing. However, if we were to simply look at the outcome of the incident reported bellow, it would be safe to assume that voters were discouraged from voting. If we raise awareness about these incidents we can help prevent them from happening to others. If everyone does their part to document what is happening it gives the election protection lawyers more information to work with.
If you or anyone you know is having similar problems call 855-VOTE-199 and help make sure everyone’s right to vote is protected. If you need legal help, you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE toll-free. Report long lines or voting problems at OurVoteLive.org or via Twitter with hashtag #OVLReport. If possible, use your phone to video the situation or interview the person affected and submit the video to VideoTheVote.org, or post it to YouTube or Twitter tagged with #VideoTheVote.
On Sunday, Nov. 4, the second day of the only weekend Ohio allowed early voting, the lines were long at the Wood County Court House, or at least longer than we are used to seeing in Bowling Green for pretty much any purpose.
A friend and I went to the Wood County Court House with two cases of water to distribute to those waiting in line, people who probably did not expect a long wait–after all, for weeks people have been raving about how easy early voting is with stories of how they “just waltzed in” and “no waiting, no hassle.” At the time we arrived, the two security guards had stopped processing people through the airport-like metal detectors, presumably because the line was so congested on the other side. It was a winding line of 75-ish people, most wearing winter outerwear, waiting to vote on one of the three or four machines within the board of elections (unless they added more machines since the day I voted).
We asked if we could go through security and pass out water to those waiting. One guard’s body language implied he didn’t care, but an older, grumpier guard paused for a moment and then replied, “No. They won’t be here that long.”
So, we left after first leaving our two cases of bottled water by the front door so people could see it as they were entering.
We wanted to encourage, not discourage voters.
We returned with more water and snacks (cookies, cracker packages, apples) and were giving them out to voters as they entered and as they left the building.
Another friend went in and talked to the security guard and he again refused to allow us to provide comfort to those waiting in line. At this point, that friend heard the guard telling people as they entered the building that the wait was at least an hour and a half, in a discouraging tone, and he even mentioned to one elderly man with a cane that there would be no way for him to sit during that time, after greeting the man with “I hope you have an hour and a half.”
Approximately 1/3 of the people entering would leave after being greeted by this security guard.
There most certainly were available chairs in the county court house that could have been provided for the elderly. In fact, right next to the BOE office is a small snack bar that holds chairs.
After about 30 minutes, the guard came out and was confrontational with us, saying, “Look, you people, you are making our jobs harder and I need you to stop. Why are you doing this anyway?” We explained that we wanted to support the people willing to stand in line on a weekend to exercise their right to vote. He countered with the argument that there were “only two of [them]” working and that people would make a mess if they brought in food or drinks. My friend responded with something along the lines of “certainly people don’t just toss their rubbish and empty bottles on the ground” and he confirmed, that in his opinion that is exactly how people behave. We offered to go in and clean up when the line was gone, and he said, “No. No. That’s not going to happen.” We offered to get trash bags or trashcans to collect any small amounts of trash and to sweep the floor if it was necessary. No, he just wanted us to take our stuff and leave the premises. I offered an apology for perhaps making his life a little more challenging that day, after all, he’d told us he had to keep an eye on 500 people over the course of the day (granted, his idea of keeping an eye on them was to process them through the metal detector–I never once saw him anywhere else but standing in that ONE location, nor in any of my own visits to the court house have I seen him or any guard doing any sort of janitorial work).
So we left.
As did many potential voters.
Later, we found out that he could not enforce his demand that we leave the premises and that others had been inside on other days handing out water when lines and waits were long.
A call to the BOE proved that they had no problem with what we wanted to do and I do not know if they spoke with the discouraging guard.
Lawyers were contacted and, as far as I’ve been informed, this is being addressed by NWOhio Jump the Vote team as well as the lawyer for voter safety.
~ Dawn Hubbell-Staeble
Story by Lauren Michelle Kinsey
Follow Lauren @OHLMK
No related stories.