MSNBC Hypes Earliest Possible Voting Initiative in Ohio: Advocates for Sleep Deprivation

Election Day is still six weeks away, but the all important battleground state of Ohio will begin early voting -- both in-person and via absentee balloting -- on Tuesday, Oct. 2. At least a third of likely voters in the Buckeye State are reportedly expected to cast their ballot before Nov. 6. 

So in an attempt to drum up support and enthusiasm, as well as sympathetic press, Democratic lawmakers in Ohio are encouraging students and union workers across the state to camp outside of their respective board of elections office overnight in order to be among the first to vote the following morning. Dutifully helping out the Democrats, MSNBC Live anchor Thomas Roberts interviewed state senator Eric Kearney (D-Ohio) about the upcoming publicity stunt called "Sleep Out the Vote." Kearney explained the basis of the idea as such: 

'Sleep Out the Vote' is an initiative where we blanket the state, no pun intended, by sleeping out in front of the board of elections... And we sleep out in front of the board of elections. It's kind of a party or festive atmosphere. It's a great deal of fun to highlight the importance of early voting. 

Of course there was one glaring omission from Roberts' line of questioning -- why? The first presidential debate is this Wednesday and the last one, geared to foreign policy concerns, is Oct. 22. Why encourage folks to vote before they can watch and digest the views of the candidates from those forums? Given how little most voters have actually paid attention to political news, wouldn't the public interest of an informed electorate mean that folks voting early should consider waiting until after having watched a debate or two?

Kearney thinks the earlier his constituents vote, the better -- hoping their enthusiasm and fervor will inspire others to do the same:

...we're anticipating that this enthusiasm that everybody is showing will infect other people, other voters. And they'll get out and vote and know as you mentioned that 30% of the people vote early. That's very important that people have the opportunity to vote early. Particularly in Ohiowhere there is a lot of confusion about when you can vote early and things like that. 

Of course, in Ohio, anyone can choose to vote early via absentee ballot, a simple option that can be done at one's leisure and through the mail, as opposed to the inconvenience of popping by a county elections office between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on a weekday.

While Roberts noted the absentee option, he failed to ask a logical question: Why not encourage folks to request absentee ballots rather than, quite literally, camp out to cast a ballot?

Relevant transcript follows

MSNBC 

MSNBC LIVE 

Oct. 1, 2012 

11:22:37 a.m. EDT

THOMAS ROBERTS: Now a story on early voting out of Ohio. Where the message to voters seems to be if you snooze, you won't lose. Democratic lawmakers will join their constituents in a slumber party of sorts. Camping overnight outside boards of elections offices in order to cast Ohio's first ballots in this presidential election. Early voting starts tomorrow in Ohio along along with New York and Florida. That will bring the total number of states voting early or through absentee ballot to 35. Democratic state senator Eric Kearney of Ohio started the initiative in his state and joins me now. Sir, it's great to have you here. First Lady Michelle Obama will going to be in the state tomorrow as early voting begins. And this comes as early voting has been under fire around the country. In you state, you describe this initiative as sleep out the vote. So explain to all of us how this is going to work. 

ERIC KEARNEY: Well, sleep out the vote is an initiative where we blanket the state, no pun intended, by sleeping out in front of the board of elections. So Senator Charleta Tavares in Columbus and Senator Edna Brown in Toledo and Senator Nina Turner, who's been on this network a number of times, in Cleveland. And Senator Joe Schiavoni in Youngstown. And we sleep out in front of the board of elections. It's kind of a party or festive atmosphere. It's a great deal of fun to highlight the importance of early voting. 

ROBERTS: So as has been pointed out, Mitt Romney needs to take Ohio if he wants to get to Pennsylvania Avenue. In 2008, 1.7 million ballots were submitted through early voting in Ohio. That's about 30 percent of the total number. So when we talk about this, what kind of numbers are you and others anticipating, expecting this time around?
 
KEARNEY: Well, it varies from city to city. So for instance in Cincinnati where we've done it since 2008, we had about -- oh, boy. We've had about 80 people sleep out overnight. Then the next morning we had probably 200 people come out to vote in the morning. In Columbus, it'll be a little bit different as there are about 200 Ohio State University students who are going to be sleeping out overnight. Toledo, there are a lot of union workers. In Cuyahoga County, there are going to be a great deal of students and just other activists who will be there. In Youngstown, there are going to be a lot of workers, union workers that are going to be there. So it's a different mix in each city, but we're anticipating that this enthusiasm that everybody is showing will infect other people, other voters. And they'll get out and vote and know as you mentioned that 30% of the people vote early. That's very important that people have the opportunity to vote early. Particularly in Ohio where there is a lot of confusion about when you can vote early and things like that. 

ROBERTS: But there are absentee ballots people can get at home, correct? 

KEARNEY: Yes. You can vote absentee. You can come down to the board of elections. Monday through Friday in Ohio up until November the 6th, which is the date of the election. 

ROBERTS: Just to point out right now, the new Columbus-Dispatch poll showing President Obama at 51%, Mitt Romney 42%. Again, no Republican has ever won the White House without Ohio. Democratic state senator Eric Kearney of Ohio, thanks for coming and taking time to talk with us. We appreciate it. 

KEARNEY: Thanks and congratulations and best wishes to you. 

ROBERTS: Thank you sir. I appreciate that.

11:25 a.m. EDT [ 3 min 20 secs ]