Sen. John Kerry's stepson, Andre Heinz, made a visit to the University of Cincinnati Sept. 28 along with actresses Claire Danes and Rashida Jones and State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate. The UC College Democrats sponsored the Kerry for President rally, harnessing an active crowd of more than 250 people, according to Erich Streckfuss, president of the organization.
"Your job does not end Nov. 2," Heinz said as students cheered. "You are citizens. You need to hold the president accountable. You gotta vote, rain or shine, hangover or not. You are our November surprise."
Heinz and Danes encouraged voting registration and stressed the importance of new voters.
"The polls can't contact you, the new voters," she said. "They don't know how influential you can be."
Danes and Jones recently joined Heinz, who has been touring college campuses for several weeks. The UC College Democrats received final details of Heinz' visit just a few days prior to the event, Streckfuss says.
"I thought it was successful," he says. "We got a lot of Kerry gear out there."
Streckfuss won the Democratic primary race this spring for a seat on the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners but withdrew to make room for Eve Bolton.
Danes and Jones weren't the only artists in Cincinnati working on political change last week. So did a steady stream of dancers, singers and other performers who participated in Artists for Change, a two-day festival on Fountain Square. In addition to visual and performing arts, the program included impassioned pleas by speakers calling for a more just city and a freer country.
Every Voter Counts
The president of the League of Women Voters (LWV), Kay Maxwell, made it a point to stop in Cincinnati on her national voter information drive.
"We're worried, especially about voter registration problems this year," she says. "With a lot of new registrants and not being a single statewide list, we're expecting that a lot of people may come to the polls on Election Day and find their names not on the list of registered voters for one reason or another, reasons that don't have to do with anybody committing fraud."
That's not the only thing concerning her. Maxwell says she's visiting states like Ohio, where the vote is likely to be close, because it's there that new provisional ballots could become the key to the next election. It's even possible that verifying provisional ballots will hold up election results, essentially becoming a 2004 version of Florida's infamous hanging chads.
The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 called for provisional ballots to be made available to voters who think they registered but aren't on the lists Nov. 2.
"If you show up at your polling place, you must be allowed to vote there whether or not your name is on the list of voters," LWV literature says.
But it's up to the states to decide exactly how to count those provisional ballots, and many have yet to establish statewide standards, Maxwell says. One thing Ohio has decided is that provisional ballots may be cast only in a voter's correct polling location.
Add that to an understaffed and aging army of poll workers whose training might not be up to date, and suddenly a reprise of the 2000 election fiasco doesn't look too far-fetched. To ensure every vote is counted and to make a voter's experience "as good as it can be," the LWV has published a handy list, "Five Things You Need to Know on Election Day." No. 3 encourages voters to look for signs at polling places for directions on how to use the voting machines, a list of voting rights and instructions for filing complaints.
"It's important that every provisional ballot be treated equal in every state," Maxwell says. "Because if it's not and the election's close, guess where the litigation is going to be coming from in terms of challenging the results of an election."
The League of Women Voters will also be available on Election Day to answer questions and sort through voting snafus; call 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Count homeless people among those whose votes are being sought out this election season. The annual Standdown for the Homeless was at Washington Park Oct. 1, serving food and providing other services to homeless men and women, with a special outreach to military veterans among them. Sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, the program serves up to 500 people each year, according to Georgine Getty, executive director of the organization. This year's
Standdown included assistance in registering to vote.
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