Report from Columbus, Ohio.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Michael Smith (Leslie and Christopher’s friend) checks in from the battleground that is also my home town:

I got up this morning at 5:30 a.m. to make sure I made it to my polling location by the time they opened at 6:30 a.m. I arrived at the Sherwood Middle School at 6:15 a.m. and the line was already from the front doors to the front side-walk (probably 100 feet or so) where it made a 90 degree turn and continued almost the entire length of the school. I would estimate there were at least 200 people waiting ahead of me, prior to the polls opening. By the time the front doors opened, the line extended at least another 100 feet past the school. Just tremendous turn-out.

The crowd was very mixed, just like our neighborhood with a large turn-out of African-Americans.There was only the minor chit-chat about the length of the line and how in past years it was never like this. No one really talked issues or candidates, no activism at all really. There was a group of three in front of me, probably pretty much the average late 50’s Bush supporters. The one woman had the most God-awful “Re-elect the First Family” photo button on her jacket. The photo made President Bush and Laura look like bobbleheads—not a terribly inaccurate photo I guess.

The line had a small laugh when a school bus full of middle-schoolers drove buy and the children began chanting “Kerry, Kerry!” to those waiting in line to get into the building. Of course, Button Lady didn’t appreciate this very much and opinioned to her fellow Bush supporters that “unfortunately children have brains and mouths too!”.

I dare say they exhibited far better use of both than this trio.Once the polls actually opened things went rather smoothly. There was a fair amount of confusion due to the set-up of the sign-in tables and arrangement of the actual voting machines. I am certain none of the confusion would have occurred had there been the typical small voter turn-out. Due to the large number, it quickly resulted in large disorganized lines getting intermixed with people being very uncertain as to where they should be. However, within 15 minutes people began assisting each other – offering tips on what line to go to, etc. Typical Ohio, we tend to be friendly here I guess.

I did not see a single “campaigner” outside the 100 foot line. I also did not see a single member of either party there to challenge voters—an issue that has gotten a lot of press here in Columbus and nation-wide. In fact, on the way home from work at 5:00 on the local call in radio station not one person reported having an issue voting other than lengthy waits in line—some up to 3 hours.

For myself, I was done and out in about an 1 3/4 hours from the time I arrived.

Interestingly enough, on the way back to my car I was asked by two separate groups of African-American middle school children who I voted for. I was really pre-occupied about beating traffic to get to a job that I was already late for and really didn’t want to respond to what were most likely smart-mouth little punk kids. Wouldn’t you know, both groups of kids gave little cheers after I gruffly responded “Kerry”! After the second group did that in the space of 15 seconds, I just stopped dead in my tracks and began laughing out loud—I still don’t know why but it was just so encouraging to see these kids so aware!

Back here in Atlanta, my father had to go to the polling place three times before he was able to get into a line he could endure. An amazing day so far…let’s see how it plays out as the sun goes down here on the East Coast.