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Before Ohio's Final Weekend Of Early Voting, Graphic Images And Long Lines

Lisbeth McCulfor standing next to the early voting line in Franklin County.
Nick Evans
Lisbeth McCulfor standing next to the early voting line in Franklin County.

The lines were long at the Franklin County Board of Elections on Friday, just ahead of the final weekend of early voting. And some voting rights advocates are voicing concerns about groups electioneering next to waiting voters.

From the first day of early voting, candidates and party representatives have been on hand to make a last-minute pitch to voters in line. It’s perfectly legal so long as they stay 100 feet away from the early voting center entrance, and 10 feet from voters in line.

Recently, an anti-abortion group called Created Equal has come out to the election board with large signs displaying graphic images. Overhead, a plane carrying an anti-abortion message is continuously circling.

Although some have complained, Board of Elections director Ed Leonard says both are acceptable actions.

“When we’ve gone out and watched them, they’re simply, they’re not behaving in any way to intimidate,” Leonard says. “So again, we’ve gotten some of those reports, but there’s really little we can do if when we see them they’re behaving in a way that’s not intimidating voters.”

Lisbeth McCulfor with Created Equal disputes reports of people seeing the signs and leaving the line.

“I don't believe so," she says. "I’ve been for hours, our team has been here for hours each day, we have not seen anyone get out of line and leave because of what we're doing."

Pete and Carol Husenitza are nearby handing out sample ballots for Republicans.

“I think it’s your freedom of speech, freedom of expression, you know, and if it bothers you, don’t look, walk away," Pete says.

“All in all, I think we’re doing pretty good out here,” Carol adds. “I don’t think people are intimidated at all by any these graphic signs, I think it might even sway their votes.”

For the most part, voters don’t interact with the people electioneering along the line, whether for information about a party’s platform related to abortion or for a sample ballot. Instead, they just quietly crawled a few steps closer to the door.

The line, snaking around the building, took about an hour and a half to get through on Friday. Meanwhile, traffic getting into the board of elections parking lot was backed up enough to occasionally block nearby intersections Friday afternoon.

“It’s amongst the heaviest days we’ve had thus far,” Leonard says. “Again, we anticipate traffic, and so we’ve done everything we can to control traffic on the parking lot itself and the traffic lights getting in, but again, we’re just limited by the space that we have.”

Under Ohio law, each county is limited to one early voting center, which in Franklin County is at the Board of Elections building on Morse Road.

Early voting continues through the weekend, including Saturday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The last day for early voting is Monday, from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.