Mahoning Dems use van to get vote out
By David Skolnick
As part of what its chairman called “an all-out ground war,” the Mahoning County Democratic Party is having a 15-passenger van drive around the county to register people to vote and take people to the board of elections to vote early.
Chairman David Betras announced the party’s “No Voter Left Behind” campaign Friday as part of the effort to re-elect President Barack Obama and to garner votes for county and statewide Democrats in this election.
The campaign’s centerpiece is a Ford E-350 vehicle, covered in signs of Democratic candidates on the ballot.
Shortly after unveiling the van, called the Obama Express, the party took the vehicle to the South Side to register voters.
The van will spend most of its time in Youngstown, particularly in neighborhoods that are traditionally Democratic but have low voter turnout, said state Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, who Betras put in charge of the party’s get-out-the-vote effort and will pay the gas expenses for the Obama Express.
The van — loaned to the party by the Haus Auto Group as an in-kind contribution until the Nov. 6 election — will have speakers broadcasting messages from local Democratic politicians about registering and voting as well as music and various sounds, including animal noises.
“The whole idea is to attract attention,” Betras said. “Transportation is a problem in poor areas. If people can’t make it to the polls, we’ll bring them there.”
Those in the county unable to get to and from the board of elections to vote early can call 330-503-5085 and the van will come to them, Betras said.
The van also will be the party’s mobile voter registration headquarters, he said, stopping at various locations to allow people to fill out voter-registration forms. Oct. 9 is the deadline to register for this election.
Also, beginning Tuesday, the first day of early voting in Ohio, the van will take people to and from the elections board to cast ballots.
“This will shake people loose and let them know this is a very important election,” said Hagan, who added that not enough people vote.
The van is “one of a fleet of vehicles that will be used to drive voters to polling locations throughout the county” on Election Day, Nov. 6, Betras said.
Driving the Ford E-350 is Jared Hughes, an Obama deputy field organizer and son of retired Youngstown Police Chief Jimmy Hughes. Jason Hinsley, an Obama field organizer, will also be in the van.
Mark Munroe, the county’s Republican Party chairman, said the Democratic van “is an indication as to how close the race is. Everyone is doing what they can. When we get requests to get to polling places, we’ve provided rides in the past and expect to do so this year.”