Leon Neisius is ready to follow Donald Trump’s call to sign up as a polling place monitor. But not in his home, mostly rural Fairfield County. He wants to watch over voting in urban Franklin County. “Fraud’s more likely up there,” said the 73-year-old retired Air Force technician who lives near Pickerington. Josh Parks, 20, also wants to get trained as a poll-watcher so he can ferret out suspicious behavior. The construction worker from Westfield in Delaware County is looking forward to casting his first presidential vote — for Trump — but suspects it may not count because of fraud. “I wouldn’t doubt it,” said Parks, who, like Neisius, was attending a Trump rally last week in Delaware. While presidential elections are always high-stakes endeavors in Ohio, Trump’s insistence that this year’s vote might be rigged, and his call for supporters to keep watch at polling places, has raised the prospect of possible voter intimidation. “It’s disheartening. At some point you say, ‘When will this end?’” said Alicia Reece, head of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus.
The Cincinnati state representative noted that she had just toured the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African-American History and Culture and took special note of the repeated attempts through the years to keep blacks from casting ballots. “It just shows you the power of voting,” she said. “We’re not going to be turned around. We’re going to continue to turn out to vote.”
Matt Masterson, formerly interim chief of staff in the Ohio secretary of state’s office and now vice chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said elections officials across the country are gearing up for Election Day even more this year, reviewing their emergency and safety procedures while trying not to discourage voting. “There’s an increased awareness to the rhetoric, and therefore a checking and testing of their plans,” he said.
While the U.S. Department of Justice is cutting back on its election monitors, Ohioans will have an array of groups supporting their right to vote. Reece said several civil-rights organizations are likely to be represented. The Ohio Democratic Party will have official observers inside at least 1,500 polling locations, a help center staffed by 100, and a team of lawyers on standby, Chairman David Pepper said.