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Election Suppression In Franklin County, Ohio?

Is There Inner-City Election Suppression In Franklin County, Ohio?

by Bob Fitrakis
Election Day Report – Columbus, Ohio
November 2, 2004 - 12:15pm EST

This morning, voters in the 55th and 5th Wards of Columbus’ near east side, majority African American and overwhelmingly Democratic areas, were waiting between two to three hours to cast their votes.

At seven of the eight polling places, Free Press observers counted only three voting machines per location. According to the presiding judge at the polling site, at the Columbus Model Neighborhood facility at 1393 E. Broad St., there had been five machines during the 2004 primary. At Douglas Elementary School, there had been four machines during the light turnout of the spring primary.

Many voters are complaining that they believe the Franklin County Board of Elections, headed by Matt Damschroder, former Franklin County Republican Party Chair, deliberately placed too few machines in the center city.

The nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition lodged complaints with the Franklin County Board of Elections. One Board of Elections employee commented that the nonpartisan poll watchers were “the problem.”

At the Model Neighborhood facility, poll watchers documented six voters who left the long lines due to a disability that prevented standing in long lines or needing to go to work. At Douglas Elementary School, two disabled people, one with cancer and one walking with the aid of a cane, also left before waiting on average two hours and 40 minutes to vote. At three of the sites, including the Laborers Hall on Alum Creek Dr., lines of people waiting to vote stretched out the door in the driving rain.

But the young black couple at the back of line insisted that they expected such tactics in the Republican-dominated county and were prepared to wait all day to vote.

A middle-aged black male told the Free Press that he was self-employed and he could “out-wait Bush.”

The lines are expected to grow longer over the lunch hour, a traditional high volume voting period, and grow even longer after 5pm. The Franklin County Board of Elections claims it is all out of voting machines and can’t assign any more to the inner city areas, which are experiencing record turnout. Election Protection observers found much shorter lines at more machines at polling sites in the suburbs.

The Free Press only observed three Republican poll challengers at the predominantly black inner city polling site in the 55th and 5th wards. No challenges had been reported during the morning voting. At one of the sites, the Republican agreed that they needed more voting machines.

A fraudulent flier was distributed throughout the near east side under the Franklin County Board of Elections name telling Democrats that, due to record turnouts, they could vote on Wednesday.


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