Big news of the day in Cincinnati: a US District judge has ruled that the “poll challengers” are unconstituational, and will be barred from the polling precincts across Ohio. The 3,600 Republican challengers were enlisted to question the qualifications of voters in heavily Democratic areas, and were to be especially concentrated in black neighborhoods. This form of legal harrasment has been stopped, thanks to judge Dlott.

Before Judge Dlott made her decision, she recieved unsolicited advice from the Justice Department. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it, “civil rights lawyers for the Bush administration’s Justice Department have notified a federal judge that they see no conflict with Republican plans to post thousands of partisan challengers in Ohio polling places on Election Day.” The case, brought forward by two Cincinnati activists, asserts that the peresence of challengers violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act because it targets black neighborhoods in Hamilton County.

This is great news — Pax and I spent much of yesterday talking with activists here about how to counteract the challengers’ hopes of making voting a hassle and creating long lines. We were working on the idea of “poll parties”, creating entertaining and inspiring events to engage voters while they were waiting in line, encouraging them not to cave to the desire of the challengers and stick it out through the long wait. We spent the early morning hours in bed brainstorming ideas and possibilities for making this happen, then went downstairs and read the news of the ruling. So it changes what we’re going to try to do tomorrow, and we aren’t yet sure what that looks like.

Having dispatched the Republican “poll watcher” threat, the biggest danger to election day turn out now seems to be rain. It’s raining now and weather reports for tomorrow show more rain. Reports from Florida are incredibly encouraging, though. Early voters have had to wait 5 hours in the rain – and voters across the state are waiting and all voting.

We’ve currently hooked into the local America Coming Together group, which is a part of the umbrella coalition America Votes. We got in late yesterday morning after driving all night (stopping somewhere in West Virginia for a short nap in a gas station parking lot). We swung up to the suburbs to visit my dad (who fed us homemade buttermilk pancakes with strawberries), and then out to my Grandmother’s nearby farm for a quick grandaughterly hello. (“She knows if she didn’t visit, her name would be mud”, she whispered to Pax) We finally got to the ACT office downtown around 1:30. We chose the right group to be involved with — they are incredibly organized and have a fantastic staff of activists. In comparison, we’ve heard from numerous volunteers that the local Kerry Campaign/Democratic Party efforts are highly disorganized. It’s a bit ironic that Kerry, who has repreatedly criticized Bush for “outsourcing” capturing Bin Laden, will be elected (if he is) by outsourced efforts of groups like ACT and America Votes.

As soon as we showed up we were given mulitple choices for plugging in, and we ended up stickering “Vote Today” flyers with precinct information, which will be hung on doors early tomorrow morning. We sat around with other volunteers from across the country, largely from California and New York. The out-of-towners outnumber the locals, 10 to 1. One of the larger presences here is the health care workers union from NYC, SEIU. This union is the largest part of the AFL-CIO (though they are talking about breaking with them, because they are not political enough). They are predominantly black, largely of Caribbean origin. Many of them have been working here for months, bringing valuable experience in grassroots organizing from their NYC campaigns.

There are so many volunteers here that ACT has been able to develop a dynamic, “multiple hit” strategy. They’ll put the “Vote Today” flyers on doors across the city tomorrow morning (which Pax continues to label while I type this). They’ll return at 10 AM to see if they’ve been removed, and if so, ask the residents if they’ve voted yet. If they haven’t voted, canvassers will return throughout the day until they get a “yes” answer. This type of repeated checking effort would have been impossible, if it were not for the incredible number of volunteers they have now.

more to come soon — time to stop writing and get on with making tomorrow a day of political change (within the standards of mainstream, at least. More radical change is still on they way…)

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