By Fletcher Word
The Truth Editor
“Democracy is at a tipping point,” said Ohio state Senator Paula Hicks-Hudson on Friday morning at the Frederick Douglass Community Association as she opened a meeting with a number of Toledo’s community and faith leaders to explain the importance of the upcoming August special election.
The event, organized by the Ohio Unity Coalition’s local convener, Petee Talley, was an effort to make sure that Toledoans get to the polls for the August 8 special election, particularly during the early voting phase which begins on July 11. There is only one issue on the ballot, an issue designed to dilute the voting rights of the Ohio citizens.
This year, the General Assembly Republicans decided that in order to thwart a citizens move to place a pro-choice amendment in the state constitution in November, they would change their stance on putting an end to costly special elections. Such elections typically cost state taxpayers around $20 million and result in low voter turnout.
However, low voter turnout, decided the Republicans, is exactly what they needed to ensure approval on a measure to raise the threshold for a proposed citizen amendment from 50 percent plus one to 60 percent would pass because Democratic voters, especially those of color, do not usually turnout in large numbers for special elections.
Citizen-proposed constitutional amendments rarely reach the 60 percent threshold – only twice in recent history – a 2015 measure to create an Ohio Redistricting Commission and a 2018 amendment to change congressional redistricting.
The 60 percent threshold has been passed by the Republican majorities specifically to prevent the Ohio electorate from passing a citizen-initiated pro-choice amendment but, in general, the change will prevent citizen initiatives on most issues from passing. It will prevent, in the words of Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Republican, at the time of passage in the upper chamber “the tyranny of the majority.”
According to Huffman, citizens don’t always know what they want and he and his colleagues, who apparently know what is better for Ohio’s citizens, are trying to prevent “a temporary emotion of a majority to change or take away folks’ rights.” He is seemingly not worried about a tyranny of the minority.
“If we don’t get people out to vote, all the things we were taught in school about one person, one vote are going out the window,” said Hicks-Hudson last week at the Ohio Unity Coalition event.
Talley said that her group is focused on getting citizens registered to vote, knowledgeable about the issues and ready to go to the polls. “We have to change these numbers,” she said of the low voter turnout numbers in the city’s wards where predominantly Black residents dwell. Those wards – 4, 8, 10, 13 and 14 – had voter turnout numbers in the 2022 general election mainly in the teens. Even lower turnout numbers are typically expected for primary for special elections.
This election, emphasized Talley, as did Hicks-Hudson before her, is critically important to maintain Ohioans one person, one vote tradition. “This is fundamental to our democracy,” said Talley. “If we get 10 percent more [voters] than would typically turn out for a special election, it’s a game changer.”
A fact sheet being distributed by the Ohio Unity Coalition notes, among other matters, that voters should vote NO on the August issue (there is only one issue on the ballot0 because over the years citizen-initiated proposals have enabled the state “to raise the minimum wage, provide bonuses to war veterans and pass measures to create jobs and help our economy.” None of these measures would have passed under the Republican proposed 60 percent initiative.
“They want to remove the power from the people and place it in the n=hands of a given few,” said Hicks-Hudson. “They want to silence our voices.”
Here are some of the points the Ohio Unity Coalition and the Lucas County Board of Elections wish voters to know and remember about the August 8 special election:
- July 10 was the deadline to register for this election;
- You may vote early in-person at the Early Vote Center at 3737 W. Sylvania Avenue, Entrance C at back of building – the hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. July 11 – 14; July 17 – 21 and July 24 – 28; 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on July 31; 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. on August 1; 7:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. August 2 – 4; 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. August 5; 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sunday August 6
- Tuesday August 8 the hours in individual polling sites are 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
- If you are planning to vote by mail, the written request for a ballot must be received at the Lucas County Board of Elections by 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, August 1, 2023;
- In order for the Absentee Ballot to be counted, it must be received by the Board of Elections by 7:30 p.m. on Election Day – whether hand delivered or mailed;
- There are new ID laws – voters must bring identification to the polls – a current and valid Ohio driver’s license, a state ID card, interim ID form issued by the BMV, U.S. Passport or passport card, U.S. Military ID card, Ohio National Guard ID card or a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ID card.
It’s now time to vote and to preserve the long-time American ideal of “one person, one vote.”