Thousands form long lines around Hamilton Co. Elections office for early weekend voting

CINCINNATI - Thousands of Hamilton County residents stood in line for upwards of four hours on Saturday and Sunday waiting their turn to personally cast an early ballot for the upcoming election.

Sunday's line actually started in front of the entrance to the Board of Elections at 7:50 a.m., five hours before the polls opened.

The first person in that line was Diana Jones of Woodlawn.

"I came past yesterday and the lines were way around the corners, so I said I would come back today and I will be first in line," Jones said.

Sunday afternoon, vans frequently pulled up to the Board of Elections office to let out elderly and disabled churchgoers so they could vote. The "Souls to the Polls" campaign instituted by several churches in Hamilton County was designed to help elderly people easily get to the Board of Elections.

In spite of the cold weather and sometimes strong winds, many parents brought their children with them so they could seem the voting process in action.

"Me and my wife's jobs make Sunday voting a lot easier," Robert Matthews said.

Matthews brought his 1-year-old son along with him.

"We don't want to wait too late and then have late dinner. So we got down here early to get it out of the way," Matthews said.

To the surprise of many people enduring the long waits and uncomfortable weather conditions, several nationally known celebrities stopped by to thank them for taking the time to cast their vote.

Among the famous names to make an appearance were Rev. Jesse Jackson and actor Laurence Fishburne. Both Jackson and Fishburne personally thanked everyone in line even though the line stretched around the Board of Elections complex.

"My message is that your vote counts," Fishburne said. "The only way for that to really matter is for you to stand up and let your voice be heard."

Famous faces weren't the only big names to makes appearances downtown on Saturday. News crews from around the world, including Japanese television station NHK, were on scene covering the early vote.

Even after the early voting Sunday polls were supposed to close at 5 p.m., there were still several hundred people waiting in line outside.

As is custom, the Board of Elections will allow anyone who is in line at the polls closing time to vote. Officials from the office expected to be there as late as 7:30 p.m., two and a half hours after closing time, to assist voters still waiting in line.

Early voting will continue in Ohio on Monday. Board of Elections offices throughout the state will be open from 8 a.m. through to 2 p.m.

Long lines are again expected.

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