I firmly believe in the importance of voter rights and the importance of promoting a free, fair and open voting experience for all eligible voters. For the 2008 Presidential Election I joined up with lawyers from across the country to protect the voting rights of citizens.
Even though I reside in Illinois I decided to serve in Dayton, Ohio on Election Day. Given the voter difficulties in recent presidential elections, particularly in the states of Florida and Ohio, I felt that I would be most useful in Ohio. I was assigned to the Dixon Wellness Worship Center, the polling place for Dayton’s Precinct 14-I. My job was to work outside of the polling place and answer any voting questions.
On Election Day I arrived an hour before the polls opened. Overall, my experience was very positive and had very few conflicts. The polling officials were seasoned and knowledgeable in dealing with the large turnout and ensured that the voting was orderly and well run. Several people showed up to the polling place unsure whether they were in the correct place. The polling officials and I were able to determine if they were in fact eligible to vote in this precinct, and if not, then where they should be voting.
At the end of the day I headed home feeling that I had contributed to our election process. As a lawyer I am in the unique position of making sure that the rights of others are not violated and can help those who can not stand up for themselves. While I didn’t witness any gross voter right violations in my precinct, I believe that it is important to take preventive measures to ensure that this remains the case nationwide.
In order to prepare for my duties I attended an Ohio voting law training session on November 3, 2008, in Dayton. At the orientation I learned how to best serve the public in this historic election. My main focus on November 4th would be: (1) long lines; (2) identification; and (3) precincts.
As in most states, Ohio requires a state issued driver’s license, or a state photo ID to enter the polling place. These two forms are the only IDs necessary. But if you do not have one of these forms of identification Ohio allows alternative forms of identification. For example, a voter may present a utility bill, such as a cell phone bills or utility bills issued by a college or university; a bank statement; a government check; or payroll check. These are all acceptable substitutes for the identification requirement that allows an eligible voter to cast his or her vote.
I also learned additional facts about Ohio voting and how it compares to that of Illinois and other states. Like many of the states around the country, Ohio’s ballots list other propositions and local, state and federal officials running for office. The Ohio polls are open from 6:30 a.m. through 7:30 p.m. Ohio is similar to the majority of U.S. states in that if a voter is in line when the poll closes, 7:30 p.m. in Ohio, that voter can cast his or her vote regardless of how long that line might be. Also of note was the fact that in Ohio it is permissible for a handicap individual to be driven up to the polling place driveway and to request a paper ballot to be brought to the individual’s vehicle by a polling official.
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