Early voting site

During the 2020 election, Joseph Enriquez took the most drastic measure most Central Ohioans can imagine. He tried to vote on a Saturday afternoon at the Board of Elections on Morse Road, during an Ohio State football game, hoping that his fellow Ohioans’ love of the Buckeyes would shorten the lines.

While Enriquez’s plan did not get him to the short lines that he hoped for, his plan speaks to Ohio voters’ commitment to exercising their right to vote. But should Ohio voters have to wait in hour-long lines to cast their votes?

As the primary elections fade into the background, we have only a few short months until once again we are swept up in the day-to-day slog of debates, advertising, and general political combat.

It may be useful, therefore, to look back on an issue with the 2020 election so we can seek solutions before November comes on us all too quickly. This issue is one that affects us all, though some more than others – the problem of long voting lines.

During the 2020 election, more people than ever in Franklin County fulfilled their civic duties and voted, but with all these voters came a logistical challenge. News reports from early voting on weekends before the 2020 general election showed hours-long lines for people to be   able to cast their ballots at the Board of Elections on Morse Road, the only in-person early voting site in Franklin County.

This has long been an issue; an election volunteer during the 2004 presidential election said that voters were “having to wait three hours, because we’re at a polling place in the inner city of Columbus with three machines for the entire polling place.” Some Ohioans waited over 10 hours to cast their ballots in 2004, according to an NPR story at the time.

These waiting times to cast ballots are a significant hindrance to people who would like to have their voice heard but simply cannot afford to wait.

Franklin County has been battling long voting lines for years, particularly in inner city Columbus, where lines often well outpace suburban precincts, according to After the previously mentioned disaster of 2004, the county took concrete steps to improve the situation.

Officials reallocated voting machines based on ballot length, which meant the longer ballots in Columbus city precincts were served by more voting machines. Officials also stressed the importance of mail in voting as a way for voters to dodge the lines entirely. While these solutions by no means solved the issue of long voting lines, they were real steps forward to make sure barriers to voting were removed.

For some, long lines are mild inconveniences, a small hurdle which requires either waiting, or trying to vote at a different time when it is less busy.

For others, however, long voting lines can be prohibitive in trying to cast their ballot. People who live paycheck-to-paycheck do not have the flexibility to take time off work, on election day or during early voting, to wait hours in line. Thus they are forced to rely on sparse weekend early voting days or absentee voting, both of which either have their own issues or are currently under threat via legislation in the Ohio Statehouse.

In response to the long line and challenges that voters overcame in 2020, Ohio officials have fought not to lower barriers, but to raise them. Fueled by former President Trump’s fraudulent claims about voter fraud, Ohio Republicans introduced HB 387 and HB 274. HB 387, the more radical of the two bills, would not only eliminate drop boxes for absentee ballots entirely, but end Ohio’s two-decade long practice of no excuse absentee voting which has allowed voters to request a ballot for any reason.

HB 274, on the other hand, would limit drop boxes, as well as prohibiting voters from requesting an absentee ballot ten days before an election.

While both of these bills have stalled for now, it is telling that when faced with issues of voter access to the polls, lawmakers have largely chosen to make it harder to vote absentee, rather than easier to alleviate line issues.

Former President Trump, in a recent visit to Central Ohio to tout his primary endorsements, had his own ideas for what changes Ohio should make to its electoral process.

Trump expressed his desire to discard early voting in-person voting altogether and claimed his goal is for “one day voting,” along with changes to Ohio’s absentee laws which would make it harder for people to vote by mail.

Restricting early voting mechanisms as Trump has suggested without a herculean expansion of election day infrastructure would almost certainly lead to a crisis that would rival 2004.

While Trump has quarreled in the past with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose for his refusal to call the 2020 election illegitimate, LaRose was still able to earn the former President’s endorsement in the recent primary election.

Facing a challenge on the right from former Ohio Rep. John Adams, LaRose pivoted to lending credence to Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, saying for instance that “President Trump is right to say voter fraud is a serious problem.”

With LaRose a likely favorite to win the re-election in November, one wonders if this newfound coziness with the former President could cause LaRose to push for restrictions such as HB 387 or HB 274.

So what should we be doing to ensure that Joseph Enriquez never has to choose between cheering on the Buckeyes and fulfilling his civic duty?

First and most obviously, Franklin County needs to provide more, not less opportunities to vote, both on Election Day and before. While this could take the form of more voting machines, an easier and less expensive solution would be to expand early voting hours.

As currently scheduled, the Board of Elections will have only one weekend day available for early voting for the 2022 general election. The Board of Elections also needs to aggressively invest in new infrastructure and staff ahead of what is sure to be a highly contested election in November.

Investing in these resources and allocating them correctly to urban areas of need will help ensure that no one who wants to have their voice heard at the ballot box will be turned away due to long lines.


Jack Wilson from Columbus is a Senior at the University of Notre Dame and a contributor to the Write to Vote Project. The Write to Vote project is a collection of student written op-eds from universities all over the country concerned with the areas of voting rights.