To vote or not to vote.
That will be the decision thousands of people will make Tuesday in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys.
I hope people make a conscious, deliberate and sustained effort to vote. It remains the cornerstone of our democracy. I can think of no more important civic duty than making time to cast your ballot.
CNN and Fox News keep harping on the importance of the midterm elections and how the Democrats may, or may not, take control of the House of Representatives, and perhaps pick up a few seats in the Senate.
But, if truth be told, Congress, over the past year, has shown itself to be ineffective in making a major difference in the lives of ordinary folks.
No movement was made on improving the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Our nation still has no workable immigration system. The future funding of Social Security and Medicare remain unresolved, and Congress still hasn’t figured out how health care should work in our country.
Yet, the hope of changing our nation’s fortunes rests with the voters. The strongest democracy in the world depends on people exercising their voting rights to make a change.
But midterm elections also involve gubernatorial seats, and the latest polls show a close contest in the Buckeye state between Richard Cordray, the Democrat, and Republican Mike DeWine.
Hot-button issues are all over the ballot.
In Ohio, state Issue 1 is a constitutional amendment that would reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing, and using illegal drugs and put a greater emphasis on treatment.
There are numerous school levies up for renewal or asking for more money in Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
So the question shouldn’t be if you are going to vote, but when you are going to vote.
Early voting began in Ohio in October, and the boards of elections are open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. Tuesday, Election Day, the polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.
Also, the Community Mobilization Coalition is coordinating van transportation to the Mahoning County elections board for early voters and rides to the polls on Election Day. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330-747-2125 for days and times drivers are available.
A “Souls to the Polls” Rally at the election board is set from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Registered Black and Hispanic voters should flock to the polls. Even though voting is a fundamental right guaranteed in the Constitution, there are some areas in our nation where there are efforts to make voting harder instead of easier.
North Carolina voters are once again dealing with changes to how the state runs its elections. A National Public Radio internet article says at a time when early voting is becoming increasingly popular nationwide, a new law passed by the Republican-controlled legislature will result in nearly 20 percent fewer places to cast votes before Election Day.
Democrats in Carolina say the changes could disproportionately affect black voters, but some local Republican officials also complain about the changes, arguing they impose too much top-down control on election administration and amount to an unfunded mandate from the state.
Another NPR article says the Florida and Georgia races for governor – two of the most closely watched in the country – have been roiled by more scrutiny over alleged voter suppression and racist ads.
Democrats have chances to capture power in both states, which would be historic in itself – in Georgia, former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams would be the first black woman to win a governor’s race in history, while in Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum would be the state’s first black governor.
Race has been an undertone of the campaigns in both states. In Georgia, there has been controversy over the decision by GOP nominee Brian Kemp, who oversees elections as secretary of state, to purge thousands of voters from the state’s voter rolls and put many other new registrations on hold.
VoteRiders, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2012, helps to ensure all citizens are able to exercise their right to vote, according to its website voteriders.org. The group said millions of voters were denied the right to vote in the 2016 presidential election for lack of the proper ID required by their state.
VoteRiders informs and helps citizens to secure their voter ID as well as inspires and supports organizations, local volunteers, and communities to sustain voter ID education and assistance efforts. They focused their efforts in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama for this election.
This week, federal judges ordered Ohio to allow voters who had been purged for not voting over a six-year period to participate in this year’s election.
As you can see, race and partisan politics continue to nip at the heels of voting rights. That is why I write this column twice a year every year encouraging voters, particularly minority voters, to shake off the apathy and eliminate the excuses to get out and vote.
Failing to vote is a slap in the face to those heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s who risked their lives – some even died – to secure that right to gain unfettered access to the ballot box.
Surely you can carve out five to 10 minutes to vote. Your vote could be the difference whether a tax levy fails, a liquor option is approved, or a new person is sent to Congress.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at email@example.com