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Vote Today Ohio

Early voting began in Ohio this past Monday, September 29th. Over the weekend, I was making maps for Vote Today Ohio, a volunteer group hoping to make the most of a “Golden Week” during which Ohioans can register to vote and actually vote via absentee ballot on the same day. Field teams fanned out across the state, from Cleveland to Cincinnati, to shuttle folk to Early Voting Centers prepared by County Board of Election offices. This process was under some legal danger up till yesterday when the Ohio Supreme Court denied a GOP appeal to shutter the early voting window. The golden week ends next Monday October 6th and from what I could tell from last night’s conference call, the group has so far successfully helped hundreds of people vote early.

Vote Today Ohio at Cincinnati State University

Vote Today Ohio at Cincinnati State University

Today I met with my field team at Cincinnati State University where I was put to work politely asking passing students, custodial workers, faculty, and staff whether they’d like to “Vote Today” and explaining the advantages of early voting and submitting an absentee ballot in person (rather than by mail). Quite a few signed up for our shuttle service to the local Early Voting Center at Hamilton County’s Board of Elections Office (824 Broadway St., google map link). When our 11am van filled to capacity I was thrilled.

For sure there’s no way to know how folks will vote once they are given their absentee ballot to fill out, but Vote Today Ohio is hoping that they’ll vote for Obama. Thus the focus on frequently under-represented voting blocks: college students, the homeless, and ex-felons (who are forbidden to vote in Florida, among other states), to help swell Obama’s numbers in this key swing state. (See here, for more on Ohio’s voting rights and regulations.

Can you tell how pleased I am to be working on this project? I was hoping to do something for this campaign. This summer I was hoping someone would respond to my invitation to do GIS work for Obama gratis. Some of my proudest work in Louisiana involved the canvassing maps I drew up for David Brown, a Baton Rouge lawyer and progressive candidate for the State Legislature’s District 67. But even before I learned GIS, I’ve tried to help wherever I could. Back in 2004, when I moved to DC and began working at the Trust for Public Land, I was happy to find a little volunteer niche at the DNC party HQ regularly sorting giant binders of scanned and copied checks for their donation vetting department.

(A digression. Amazing the friends you make working shoulder to shoulder for these races. At the DNC I met Chris Kinsei, a Zen Buddhist monk who had recently left the Mt. Shasta monastery that had been his home for the previous 25 years. Twenty five years of contemplating peace gave him a hunger for pursuing peace in our world. In the last four years since Bush won, Chris has gone on to build a life teaching folk, getting married, and studying to become a nurse. A great guy if ever you should meet him.)

In 2000, I worked as a citizen reporter for the IMC covering the (unfortunately now typical) police abuses of political demonstrations at the Republican Convention in Philadelphia and nearly got arrested while talking on my cell phone and delivering this story from Market Street. My work on national political campaigns began by canvassing to elect former California governor Jerry Brown President in 1992.

Besides watching the VP debate, tonight I get to make some snappy t-shirts for my fellow volunteers to wear. My hope is that they’ll be good enough to become a budget conscious hipster’s proud thrift store discovery.

About Aharon N. Varady


Aharon's Omphalos is the hobbit hole of Aharon Varady, founding director of the Open Siddur Project. He is a community planner and environmental educator working to improve stewardship of the Public Domain, be it the physical and natural commons of urban park systems or the creative and cultural commons of libraries and museums. His advocacy for open-source strategies in the Jewish community has been written about in the Atlantic Magazine, Tablet, and Haaretz. He is particularly interested in pedagogies for advancing ecological wisdom, developing creative and emotional intelligence, and realizing effective theurgical praxes . He welcomes your comments, personal messages, and kind words.

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