Ohio early voting survives storm

COLUMBUS—A strong side-swipe from the western edges of Hurricane Sandy did not appear to have a significant impact on early voting in all-important Ohio this week.

Though much of the state did experience a nasty fall storm as a result of Sandy, including areas of snow, rain and high winds that caused some damage and power outages in the Cleveland area, party and elections officials said they did not anticipate voting to be slowed.

Only one county—Erie County on the banks of Lake Erie—reported a power outage at its early voting site Tuesday morning. An election official said the start of voting for the day was delayed from 8 to 10:20 a.m.

Voters have been mailing in absentee ballots and voting in-person since Oct. 2.

Campaign officials for Mitt Romney and President Obama have engaged in a vigorous spin war over which side has been doing better among early voters, who do not register by party making independent analysis more difficult.

Most public polling has indicated that early Ohio voters favor Obama by a wide margin and Democrats’ have been pushing the practice especially aggressively, so any weather-related slow down would likely have concerned Democrats.

Instead, several of major Ohio counties reported that they saw especially brisk business at their early voting centers on Monday, as the storm bore down. Franklin County, home to heavily-Democratic Columbus, saw its busiest day since voting began on Monday, as did the swing county of Hamilton, home to Cincinnati.

Democratic stronghold Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, saw its second busiest day on Monday. On Tuesday, voting started on time in Cleveland, though voting in the morning was a bit slower than it has been on past days.

Total in-person early vote tallies for Cuyahoga are running slightly behind the counties’ total at the same time before the 2008 election.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said he was not concerned.

“These are folks who spend three-and-a-half hours sitting the dog pound at a Cleveland Browns game in December,” he said. “A little bit of rain, a little bit of freezing rain won’t keep us from the polls.”

Still, he said he was pleased that a court decision over early voting had been settled in Democrats’ favor, requiring polls to be open this weekend.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.

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