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Ohio's One-Stop Register/Voting Pulls Low Turn-Out

12:55 PM, Oct 7, 2008 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The controversial new election law, which allows a week-long window for anyone in the battleground state to register and vote on the same day at the polls without proof of residency, may not have been the fraudulent voting bonanza Republicans were fearing and Democrats were hoping for.

Only about 4-5,000 voters in the state's largest counties availed themselves of the new law, which underwhelmed election officials:

"With all the hoopla we were anticipating a whole lot more," said Steve Harsman, the elections director in Montgomery County, home to Dayton.

Overall, between 20,000 and 25,000 people were expected to have voted early in person in the four counties, beginning Sept. 30. The four counties include the state's largest urban areas - Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Dayton - and the focal points of campaign get-out-the-vote efforts.

There was this instance of exemplary Democratic efforts to prevent voter fraud, in Cleveland:

Volunteers supporting Barack Obama picked up hundreds of people at homeless shelters, soup kitchens and drug-rehab centers and drove them to a polling place yesterday on the last day that Ohioans could register and vote on the same day, almost no questions asked.

The huge effort by a pro-Obama group, Vote Today Ohio, takes advantage of a quirk in the state's elections laws that allows people to register and cast ballots at the same time without having to prove residency...

"I never voted before," Woods said, because of a felony conviction that previously barred him from the polls. "Without this service, I would have had no way to get here."

Karl Rove thinks the relatively low turn-out should worry Obama supporters, especially because Ohio State University was included in the early-voting tallies. Democrats are counting on more successful efforts in other battleground states, with poor, homeless, and college voters:

ROVE: It didn't prove out. At least - they've got one more day, but I don't - you know, look. There are - four one-hundredths of 1 percent of the voters in Cuyahoga County showed up and availed themselves of the opportunity for same day registration and voting in Cuyahoga County...

ROVE: If I were the Obama campaign, I'd be worried about it. They had a big hoopla about all those buses and being able to turn out lots of people and bank a lot of early votes.

They may have just simply taken people who voted - who would have otherwise voted on Election Day. They didn't add a lot of new registrants to the roll.

The Lucas County Republican Party Chairman gets the award for most creative slightly awkward use of the word "windbag" in mocking the Obama campaign:

Jon Stainbrook, who is the Lucas County Republican Party chairman, said the Obama effort fell short.

"The Obama campaign has been a windbag, saying that they're going to bring in all these people and it obviously has fallen way short of where it should have," Mr. Stainbrook said.

And, Cuba Gooding, Jr. gets recognition for doing celebrity GOTV without the requisite celebrity obnoxiousness:

"I have made a point in my career not to talk politics. It is your constitutional right to vote. Our forefathers died for us to have this opportunity," Mr. Gooding said.

Update: Helpful volunteer groups registering the homeless are also helpfully helping them push the buttons on the computerized voting screens. How helpful of them!

"They made me feel like a family member, like a brother," Melvin said after voting. "They helped me, too. I was nervous doing the voting with the new (computer) system, because I'm used to just poking holes in the paper ballot."

The volunteers helped him read the ballot language, sign paperwork and find buttons on the touch-screen voting machine.

Many of the homeless said they were voting for Democratic candidates because they feel that will provide jobs, which means they will have a better chance of going back to work.

You don't say.