Don’t be apathetic; get out to vote

Voter turnout is predicted to be low for Tuesday’s primary election in the Mahoning Valley, even though a native son, Joe Schiavoni, is running for the Democratic Party nomination for governor.

There aren’t many hot-button issues to draw voters to the polls, and many have not taken advantage of early voting, which continues today through Monday, to cast their ballots.

I am perplexed by this apparent apathy that exists in our community.

The opportunity to vote, in most cases, only happens twice a year, yet, for many people, they don’t take, or make, the time to exercise one of the most sacred rights we have as Americans.

There are thousands of registered Democrats and Republican voters in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, yet just a small percentage will actually carve out about 10 minutes or less Election Day to help decide who will govern our state, make judicial rulings and represent Ohio in the U.S. House and Senate.

Did you know there is a statewide issue on the ballot to create a bipartisan public process for drawing congressional districts? Ohio voters will be asked to amend the state Constitution to essentially end gerrymandering of political districts to favor one political party over another.

That is an extremely important issue, and it really hasn’t been publicized in newspapers, TV, the radio and the internet. In fact, it is the only statewide issue on the Tuesday ballot.

The Republican Party, usually not strong in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, has fielded candidates in several key races, which means there will be contested races in November after the primary election is over.

Because Ohio still has not figured out how to effectively and fairly finance public schools, the onus to provide the necessary funding to ensure our children have what they need in their classrooms to be successful falls squarely on the voters’ fingers.

Boardman, Niles and Howland schools districts all have levies on the ballot asking for additional money. Money is tight for all of us, especially for those on fixed incomes, and tax levies are pocketbook issues we all must take into account. That is why voting is so crucial.

If you believe your school administrators have spent wisely and matched income with expenses, then cast your vote for that levy. On the other hand, if you believe teachers are overpaid (they aren’t), school district leadership is slipshod and district policies are not helping your child’s education, then mark no on your ballot.

But, get out and vote.

Political subdivisions also need your vote to see if police and fire protection will continue at current levels.

A Mahoning County commissioner once told me when I was a young reporter: “Ernie, all people want to see is their trash picked up on time, their roads fixed and cops at their door when they call them. They expect that from government when they are paying their taxes. If they don’t get that, they will vote you out of office.”

There used to be a TV and newspaper ad back in the day that encouraged literacy. The catchphrase was “Reading is fundamental.” There really shouldn’t be a catchphrase for voting, but I would suggest this one: “Voting is essential.”

If voting weren’t essential, why would the Russians waste their time and resources in an attempt to interfere with the 2016 presidential election?

When you see the vote tallies in The Vindicator and on, you will undoubtedly see some races or local issues that won or lost by just a few votes. It happens every election. Your vote actually could be the difference as to whether a liquor option or a school levy is approved or fails.

Finally, as usual, I must remind all black, Latino and women voters to cast your ballot. Too many people fought, bled and died in the 19th and 20th centuries to secure the right to vote regardless of race or gender. Unless you are in prison, there is no excuse you can possibly come up with for not voting.

Early voting began April 10. Absentee ballots have been available for weeks. Election boards are open for early-person voting from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. The polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Make time to vote. You can never regret doing what is right and essential.

Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at