The tent poles went up before the polls opened.
About 20 Oberlin College students rolled out of their sleeping bags and tents and into voting booths Wednesday at the Lorain County Board of Elections in Sheffield Township.
They were the first to cast ballots on day one of early voting, and you too can cast early in-person votes now instead of waiting for Nov. 8 to roll around.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays through Oct. 28, after which weekend voting will open with limited hours and weekday voting will extend to 7 p.m.
Those who camped out to vote first said they wanted to send a message about the importance of early voting. In presidential preference, the students leaned toward Democrat Hillary Clinton rather than Republican Donald Trump.
“I want to get my voice heard early,” said Jada Cushnie, a freshmen from Carmel, N.Y. “Maybe by voting early, I can help swing other people who are either undecided or who are choosing to not vote to go out and vote. In this election, I think everyone’s vote matters.”
Cushnie said Trump — who has called for banning Muslim immigrants from entering the U.S., retweeted white supremacists, and said Mexico is sending drug dealers and rapists to the U.S. — is racist. Cushnie said she was also appalled by a 2005 recording disclosed Oct. 7 in which Trump bragged about groping women without consent.
“Even if you don’t agree necessarily with Hillary’s policies, this election is more morally based,” she said. “He’s morally bankrupt.”
Cushnie is one of a record number of Americans voting early. More than 40 percent of voters in swing states like Ohio are expected to vote early, the New York Times reported.
Absentee ballots account for about one in six of ballots cast in Ohio, with more than one million requested by registered voters. More than 27,000 have been requested in Lorain County, up 3,500 from 2012, said Paul Adams, Lorain County Board of Elections director.
Early voting may influence the outcome in Ohio, where some polls show Clinton surging ahead of Trump, who had led by about five points prior to the second presidential debate.
The website www.fivethirtyeight.com, which models predictions using data from an array of polls, said Clinton has a 60 percent chance of winning Ohio and an 83 percent chance of winning the election.
Those numbers have changed frequently amid a scandal-laden election season, with Trump pulling even with Clinton on a couple of occasions. The Republican candidate only once held the lead — by 0.02 percent in July — before being overtaken again.
With many middle-aged and elderly white people supporting Trump, Clinton will likely need younger voters support to win Ohio. She has had trouble connecting with students, many of whom supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who ran as a Democrat in the primary.
However, Cory Ventresca, co-chairman of Oberlin College Democrats, said he supported Clinton in the primary.
Ventresca said because Clinton has a long political history, it’s easy to focus on her mistakes rather than positives, such as helping eight million children get health care through the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997 while first lady.
Ventresca said it can be a hassle for Oberlin students to vote because many have to re-register each year if they move to a new dormitory or move off campus. A senior from Columbus, he’s also heard stories of Oberlin students waiting in long lines on past election days.
“We definitely want people to early vote given the restrictive, repressive laws that have been passed in Ohio,” Ventresca said.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | Oberlin News-Tribune About 20 Oberlin College students camped out overnight at the Lorain County Board of Elections to be the first in the county to vote early.