Ohio And Florida: Checking In With Two Key States

Ohio and Florida could decide the election — or delay the results for days to come. NPR reporters in Tampa, Fla., and the Columbus, Ohio, area talk with Morning Edition hosts about what people are talking about at the polls and possible challenges.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. People have been joking for weeks that the candidates are actually running for president of Ohio. That's how vital the state is, but here's a reminder about the electoral map. It is at least theoretically possible for either candidate to lose Ohio and still reach 270 electoral votes by winning some combination of other states. Many of those combinations include Florida.

MONTAGNE: And next, we'll hear from these two states, states that could decide the election - or delay the results for days to come. NPR's Debbie Elliot is with us in Tampa, Florida. NPR's Don Gonyea joins us from Columbus, Ohio, and welcome to you both. And Debbie, let's start with you. Tell us where you are exactly and what you're seeing.

DEBBIE ELLIOT, BYLINE: I am in east Tampa at the Blythe Andrews, Jr. Public Library. This is in sort of a working class, mostly African-American neighborhood here and things have gone very smoothly so far here this morning. No lines, a bit contrast folks tell me to the way it was just a few days ago when early voting was going on. During early voting, people were lined up around the block.

You might be able to hear folks chanting in the background, four more years. They've been hollering, fired up. There's a food truck selling - or actually giving away what they're calling Obama hot dogs, very much folks out here pushing for President Obama this morning.

INSKEEP: Debbie, one quick question here. The Obama campaign has been counting on an 80 percent minority vote and not only that, a good turnout. Now, it's hard to go to any one place, any data point and know what the turnout is going to be, but do you sense enthusiasm where you are?

ELLIOT: I do sense enthusiasm and in fact, one young woman told me she had come with a friend and thought this was her precinct. They told her, no, this is not your precinct, but what you can do is cast a provisional ballot here. The caveat being depending on how things go, that may or may not get counted. She said, no, thank you. And she told me afterwards, she's going to go take an extra hour, go to the correct precinct and make sure her vote counts.

There's a real sense that anything can happen in Florida and that if they don't vote, they could be that one vote that makes a difference. At least that's the folks I've spoken with here today. And, you know, it was very similar earlier today when I was at a more affluent polling precinct at the Florida aquarium, where there were a good mix of both Republican and Democratic voters and everyone said, you know, it's worth waiting. They had an hour line there. It's worth waiting because we know this could come down to our vote making the difference.

MONTAGNE: Let's bring Don Gonyea into the conversation. Don, you're there in Columbus, Ohio. Tell us where exactly you are and what you're seeing.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: I'm in east Columbus after spending a morning, the morning at a polling station. I actually went out with some AFL-CIO election volunteers and I've been walking with them for the last hour as they go door to door to door, knocking on union households, pre-identified union households, in this working class neighborhood, looking, scrounging, doing whatever it takes to make sure anybody who can vote, who's eligible to vote actually gets to the polls, and has a way to get to the polls if necessary.

INSKEEP: Have there been some cajoling going on, people saying I don't really have time for you today?

GONYEA: You know, they - here's what happens. You knock on doors this time of day and most people just aren't home. But that's part of the hard work of a campaign, get-out-the-vote effort. You still have to go door to door and they have had positive encounters. The people who answered the doors said they had already voted. And they just go through a checklist to make sure that they voted the right way on Issue Number 2 or on down-ballot races.

And then they encourage them to make sure everybody else in their household goes out and votes the same way.

INSKEEP: Don, I know that the last poll showed President Obama a couple points up in Ohio, but it's such a vital state, people have been scouring the early voting records to see who has the tiniest, tiniest advantage. Do people have a sense there that every vote could matter, every single vote could matter in Ohio?

GONYEA: ...celebrations tonight, but the last thing anybody wants to do - and again, I've been out with these, you know, these union members for the last hour. The last thing they want to do is at the end of the day, see that they lost a close one and wonder if there was one more door they could've knocked on and one more person that they could've had a face-to-face encounter with.

So they wish every election were a blowout in their favor, but they know that this is Ohio and especially this year. It's all riding on what's happening here. But that's the sense from the ground.

MONTAGNE: And this year, of course, we've heard a lot of talk of possible challenges to the results. We only have just about a minute here, but Debbie, what are you hearing down in Florida?

ELLIOT: You know, I've heard from isolated incidents of voters being challenged, a few folks here talking about some confusion; they have felony records and there's some confusion. They thought their voting rights had been restored, but now they're finding out they're not. So there's a few isolated incidences of some problems, but it's too soon to say whether that's a widespread issue or not.

MONTAGNE: And Don, briefly to you?

GONYEA: Over a couple of hours, overwhelmingly the people I talked to said it was a pretty smooth experience, quicker than they thought. A couple of people said they had problems with the electronic voting machines, but they weren't overly concerned about it. I did talk to some folks who had to vote with provisional ballots and there was some nervousness there. Again, it all depends how close it is and how many provisional ballots there are.

MONTAGNE: OK. That's NPR's Don Gonyea in Columbus, Ohio and Debbie Elliot in Tampa, Florida.

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