CLEVELAND – One of Cuyahoga County’s Obama campaign offices already was buzzing with activity Monday afternoon when a political celebrity dropped by for a pep talk. Such is life in Ohio on election eve.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, a stalwart of Democratic Party politics for decades, had a few issues on his mind: the economy, Superstorm Sandy, the Republican approach to governance. But first out of his mouth were mounting complaints about voting irregularities, as both sides prepare for the possibility of ongoing legal disputes long after balloting is done Tuesday night.
Jackson talked about what he said were long lines over the weekend and also Monday, with some voters waiting in the drizzly gray cold for up to six hours to cast their ballots. He compared it to the epic waits endured by South African voters after the fall of apartheid in 1994, when people stood in long, winding lines to vote for Nelson Mandela, among other candidates. He said the United States should do better.
“These long lines are gallant, but they’re also repressive,” Jackson said.
The stakes are particularly high here in Cuyahoga County, where Democratic officials are counting on large turnouts to give Obama enough of a cushion to beat out Mitt Romney’s strongholds elsewhere in the state.
Cuyahoga Democratic Party Chairman Stuart I. Garson said he hoped to approach Obama's 2008 margin, when he won the state by nearly 260,000 votes.
The Obama get-out-the-vote machinery here is massive and apparently well-honed, with volunteers canvassing neighborhoods again and again looking to prod Democratic voters to the polls. Garson said enthusiasm ran high but acknowledged creeping frustration at those still stubbornly undecided after so many months of intensive campaigning.
“If you’re still undecided, I’m not sure what I can say to you. I don’t know what universe you’re living in,” Garson said.