COLUMBUS, Ohio - Tales of waiting more than five hours to vote, voter intimidation, under-trained polling-station workers and too few or broken voting machines largely in urban or heavily minority areas were retold Saturday at a public hearing organized by voter-rights groups.
For three hours, burdened voters, one after another, offered sworn testimony about Election Day voter suppression and irregularities that they believe are threatening democracy.
The hearing, sponsored by the Election Protection Coalition, was to collect testimony of voting troubles that might be used to seek legislative changes to Ohio's election process.
The organizers chose Ohio because it was a swing state in the presidential election as well as the site of numerous claims of election fraud and voter disenfranchisement.
"I think a lot of us had a sense that something had deeply went wrong on Nov. 2 and it had to do with the election process and procedures in place that were unacceptable," said Amy Kaplan, one of the hearing's coordinators.
Kaplan said the hearing gave everyday citizens a chance to have their concerns placed into public record.
Both a written and video report on the hearing will be provided to anyone who wants a copy, especially state lawmakers who are considering mandating Election Day changes, Kaplan said.
Many of the voters who testified were clearly Democrats who wonder if their losing presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry, was able to draw all the votes that were intended for him.
"I call on Sen. Kerry to un-concede until there is a full count of the votes," said Werner Lange of Trumbull County, who claimed that polling places in his Northeast Ohio neighborhood had half the number of voting machines that were needed.
"This caused a bottleneck at polling stations, and many people left without voting," he said.
Others said they were testifying not on political grounds but out of concern for a suspicious election system that should be above reproach.
Harvey Wasserman of Bexley said he tried to vote absentee with the same home address he has used for 18 years but was told he couldn't because his absentee application had the wrong address.
"But the notice telling me I had the wrong address arrived at the right address," he said. "I wonder, how many of these absentee ballots were rejected for no good reason?
"My concern is not out of the outcome of the election," Wasserman said, "but that this could go on and an election could be stolen. And we simply can't have that in a democracy."
© Copyright 2004 The Plain Dealer.