Saturday, May 4, 2019
Do you realize that after reading this column you still have time to vote in Tuesday’s primary election?
Yes, you can cast your ballot until 4 p.m. at your board of election offices Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Are you busy today? Well you can vote from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.
You can even vote from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday.
In case you have missed my point, let me make it clear. Ohio has pretty much eliminated all excuses for you not to exercise what is one of the most important rights our democracy affords.
I have dedicated hundreds of column inches in this space over the years challenging people, especially people of color, to make every effort to vote.
You get a chance to vote twice a year – in the spring for the primary election and in the fall for the general election.
Many people see this as an onerous effort, akin to the most difficult task you can imagine. Why?
You should be ashamed of yourself if you use any of the following excuses not to vote:
I forgot. (This paper and all local TV channels have bombarded you with information about Election Day).
I didn’t have time. (See the introduction to this column)
I don’t think my vote will count. (Really? Several elections have been decided by one or two votes)
I don’t know if I’m registered to vote. (What is stopping you from calling the election board?)
I don’t have a way to get to the polls. (Did the Western Reserve Transit Authority take a day off on Election Day? Have taxi cabs left the area? Ever hear of Uber or Lyft? What about calling your church to see if it offers rides? How about asking your family or friends to drive you?)
Let me use this example: If you only had two chances a year to win $1 million, wouldn’t you do all you could to make sure you took advantage of those chances?
Maybe I’m naive, but I think voting is that important.
You have the chance to decide who will represent you in government or whether you will pay more in taxes to support your government or your school district.
I get frustrated every year when David Skolnick, the paper’s politics writer, asks elections board directors to predict voter turnout. The answers are almost always the same: Turnout will be poor.
Here’s what Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning County’s elections board director told Skolnick earlier this month: “There’s really, really, really no interest in any race.” She’s predicting voter turnout of between 10 percent to 12 percent.
Kim Fusco, director of Columbiana County Board of Elections, predicts turnout in her county to be 12 percent “if that.” “That seems really high to me,” she told Skolnick.
Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County’s elections board director, said, “I’m not expecting a lot of voters. There’s just not a big turnout for odd-year primary elections. We’ll have a bigger turnout in the fall.”
That is shameful. There are 163,435 registered voters in Mahoning County, and 134,254 in Trumbull County. When only 10 percent to 12 percent of registered voters show up, that speaks to the apathy that has crept into our democracy, and the impact, or lack thereof, it has on our government and our lives.
In the primary election, you declare your political affiliation – Republican, Democrat, independent, etc. But if you do not desire to affiliate with a political party in Ohio, you are considered to be an unaffiliated voter, and you can vote for tax issues that affect you.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said voting is “the foundation stone for political action.” He added, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I guess the question you have to ask yourself is: Does voting really matter?
All of us make time, and take time, to do the things we consider most important to us. Why doesn’t voting rise to that level of importance?
As a black person, I get frustrated and angry when I think of the thousands of our people, along with their white allies, who fought, bled and died to secure the right to vote. We do them a great disservice when we make excuses or are too lazy and apathetic to carve out 15 minutes, if that long, to cast a ballot.
Don’t let another election pass you by. This is an easy way for you to have a positive influence on your community.
The polls in Ohio are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at email@example.com