Earlier today Senator John Kerry visited Columbus, the state capitol of Ohio. He spoke at a local church community center to a gathering of local residents, media, and politicians about the importance of voting early. There were about four TV stations, a few videocameras, and live blogging through OhioDems. The mayor of Columbus Michael Coleman, Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (US Rep. from the Cleveland area), and other local politicians spoke and made comments. Senator Kerry also took some questions from the residents and provided the media with a Q+A session after the event.
The Senator stressed that Ohioans have been blessed with a new law change that allows them to vote early. The law change he was speaking of allows registered voters to cast their ballots from now until election day, whereas in the past absentee balloting was only granted in difficult circumstances and caused a lot of headaches for those requesting to do so.
Although we all have heard the many stories of voter suppression, long lines, etc. in Ohio in 2004, even I (an Ohio resident and frequent blogger) was shocked at some of the stories people of this Columbus neighborhood told the Senator. In one instance a disabled veteran of the Vietnam War thanked Kerry for his service and apologized that he had let John Kerry down. He had cast his vote for thirty years straight without a problem, but in ’04 he couldn’t wait the nessesary 5 hours in the rain to vote and went home without casting his ballot. He said he tossed and turned all night feeling upset that he hadn’t voted.
There were a few references to items that are standard agenda for any politician talking to Americans in today’s volitile climate, but most of the Senator’s comments were directed toward the intended purpose of getting citizens to ensure that this time in Ohio their vote would be counted. Some comments were:
- “You have now won a great new right here. And that is the right to vote from now until election day November 7th.”
“There was a fragile, quiet, unassuming woman who refused to go to the back of the bus. We lost her about a year ago now. I’ll tell you what…….she sat down so that the rest of us could stand up. But she didn’t do it so that we could stand still. She did it so we keep going forward and make a difference in the quality of the lives around us.”
The Senator mentioned both a webpage and a toll-free number for citizens to register and/or vote.
- “Once you’re registered to vote, you don’t have to look forward to a long line. You don’t have to worry if it’s raining cats and dogs on election day. You can vote now. In the 1960’s people put their lives on the line to vote. That right is not a museum piece, it’s a living right.”
Local politicians also stated that the right to vote early has some major benifits, not the least of which is a verifiable paper trail that is mostly absent in the much maligned electronic voting machines on election day.
People from various organizations asked questions about voting rights and issues. Senator Kerry thoughtfully explained his thoughts to them and implored them to continue fighting to make sure that their sacred right to vote was honored. He closed the event with, “If you pick up that ballot now, we can make a difference and reclaim the agenda for our country. Let’s turn this country around, let’s fight, and thank you very much.”
I have some non-digital video of this and the other event in Columbus and I’ll try to get audio and video somewhere when I can get it all converted for anyone interested. NBC4i.com has more photos here.