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US elections 2016

US presidential election - Ohio voters go to polls despite bureaucracy and doubts

Voters in Cleveland, Ohio
Voters in Cleveland, Ohio Jan van der Made/RFI

US voters chose their president on Tuesday 8 November with limited help from technology. But with the main contenders being Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump - both controversial in their own way - not everybody was happy with the two-party choice before them.


In Cleveland, the second largest city of swing state Ohio, polls opened at 6.30am on Tuesday 8 November.

In the hours that followed a steady trickle of voters came in to cast their ballot. The ballots are scanned and the results will be collected after the polling places close at 7.30pm.

In the basement of the Old Stone Church at Public Square, Cleveland, there is a restrained mumbling.

A voting official in Cleveland, Ohio
A voting official in Cleveland, Ohio Jan van der Made/RFI

The line of voters is moving relatively fast. People have to show their voter credentials and proceed to a stand that is covered from three sides, to fill in the ballot paper.

Apart from the choice of who becomes the US’s next president, there are boxes to fill in for senator, House representatives, local officials and local laws and regulations.

Once filled out, the ballot paper is to be put into a scanning machine that will register the preference of the voter and store it on a memory key.

“The voting machines are not bad,” says Brian, coming out of the church. “They don’t use a lot of technology still because they want to avoid issues of hacking and things like that, to keep the voter process secure. It is simple enough, you just fill out the ballot and you scan it and you’re done. So it’s not bad.”

There is an assistance table for people who still have difficulties operating the scanning machine, and election officials keep a polite distance before they ask if they can help a voter in trouble.

Tackling bureaucracy and additional issues

For some voters there are bigger problems.

People who have just moved into the state or forgot to register a change in address have to fill in an envelope with dozens of questions before they can finally proceed to vote.

Jill is angry and scoffs at an election official who tries to help her by pointing out what she has to write down.

“Whatever!” she says and continues filling in the questionnaire.

Brian, too is not pleased with the process. For the presidential elections, he voted for Hillary Clinton but left many of the other options blank.

“There is a ton of local stuff and I don’t feel very informed about all the local people running, so I abstained," he says. "There's a question regarding the income tax of the city of Cleveland and another one for renewing a tax on education. And another one to change the Police Review Board name. I can’t see why anyone would vote against that.”

Two-party system under fire

RCP members call for a boycott of the poll
RCP members call for a boycott of the poll Jan van der Made/RFI

At a safe distance from the church, across the square is a noisy demonstration by the fringe group Revolutionary Communist Party of the USA. They are waving posters and a banner that, in a reference to Donald Trump’s campaign slogan to “make America great again”, claims that “America was NEVER Great”

“We are telling people that it is not in our interest to vote for either of these candidates. We tell the people: don’t vote for this system, overthrow it,” says Raphael Cadera, one of the activists.

“We need to break out of the whole framework of evil versus lesser evil and go for a real revolution,” he says.

It would do away with problems such as unemployment, the financial crisis or the situation in Syria, since these are “problems caused by the capitalist and imperialist system”, he claims.

Passersby hardly pay attention to the group and they are asked by a stern-looking security guard on a bicycle to “move away from the property”, an order the revolutionaris meekly follow.

“It is a proof of the great American tradition of freedom of speech, that this is allowed,” says one of the pedestrians who is on his way to the polls.

But many agree with the demonstrators that the current political system in the US is far from perfect.

“It sucks that we have a two-party system,” says Brian. “I didn’t feel like it was either one or the other. I would have probably voted for [Green Party nominee] Jill Stein but when it comes down to me allotting my vote so it actually means something you have to vote for one of these two parties. Which is unfortunate."

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