CLEVELAND — Early voting in Ohio got off to a busy start Tuesday. Hours before polls at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections opened, voters were already forming lines.
Fifty-seven-year-old Richard Grayson was one of the first in line. He says he has never taken his right to vote for granted. He remembers voting for the first time as a teenager just out of high school.
“I understood when I first signed up to vote I understood that it’s good to vote,” he said. “They say one person’s vote don’t count but it [does].”
Grayson says he doesn’t understand why some people don’t exercise their right to vote and he’s not alone. Kevin Jackson, who stopped by before going to work, says now is the time to do so.
“Our country is in a turning point right now so we can either go one way or the other,” Jackson explained.
Jackson tells News 5 he didn’t want to chance his ballot getting lost in the mail as the postal service faces a surge in mail-in ballots.
“I just want to make sure that my vote gets counted that’s why I’m here early in person,” he said.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections team ensures News 5 they’re doing all they can to keep voters like Grayson and Jackson safe.
“As you can see there's going to be health screenings so we want to make sure everybody that comes in is healthy, the early voting area will be sanitized constantly. All of the surfaces that the voters and our staff touch will be sanitized regularly throughout the day,” Cuyahoga County Board of Elections Community Outreach Manager, Mike West, said. “If it looks like there's a line it's kind of an optical illusion because now that we have to space people six feet apart the lines will look longer but they won't be and we're very good at processing voters through very quickly.”
As polling staff work to control the crowds, they’re also handling absentee ballots for those voting by mail. The demand for vote by mail ballots, up more than a hundred thousand in Ohio; a 55% increase compared to 2016. We’re told the hike will likely impact the number of people who show up to vote in-person.
Regardless of how it’s done, early voters are hoping other Cleveland residents make their voices heard.
“Don’t just wait. Plan your vote, get down here and get it done,” Jackson said.
From Oct. 6 to Oct.16 early voting will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.
Absentee ballots will also be sent out Tuesday. If you requested one, you should be receiving it in the mail over the next week or so.