Voting Rights Crucial to America’s Future

Over the past nine months, the American Civil Liberties Union has taken a prominent role in fighting the Trump administration’s attempts to oppress marginalized communities across the country. Many of the ACLU’s battles take place in the courts and seem distant from everyday activism, but their outcomes impact daily life. The policies set down by this administration are so blatantly discriminatory that facing them as an individual can be overwhelming and terrifying — having institutional support from a group accustomed to fighting battles for civil liberties is both helpful and comforting. One of those battles is for one of our most important civil responsibilities: voting. Voting in a non-presidential election may seem less compelling, but voting in local races is just as important as voting for a president, if not more so.

In the 2016 election, Republicans took the majority in both the Senate and the House, which has resulted in a series of bills attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, destroy the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, give tax cuts to the wealthy, and defund many important government agencies and services like the Environmental Protection Agency, Medicare, and Medicaid. While some of the more centrist Republicans have found the strength to stand up to their own party, the reality is that many people are suffering already. As a voter, this is where you come in.

In 2018, Ohio will elect a new governor to replace the outgoing John Kasich, and 17 of the 33 seats in the state Senate will be up for grabs. Oberlin’s current state senator, Republican Gayle Manning, is term-limited and will therefore not be running for re-election. These openings represent the perfect chance to enact progressive change across Ohio, even while our federal government is in disarray. Voting in local elections is also a great way to vote on local issues like election reforms through redrawing Ohio’s heavily gerrymandered districts.

If you are registered to vote in Ohio, you have a duty to show up and make your voice heard in these vital upcoming elections. However, many eligible voters in Ohio face difficulties when trying to vote. For example, Ohio purges its voter rolls after each election, meaning that people who did not vote in that election or have the same name as someone in another state may be deregistered without their knowledge.

The ACLU is one group fighting for voting rights in Ohio. They are seeking volunteers to join their People Power initiative across the state to increase voter registration acessibility. In particular, the intiative focuses on enfranchising those awaiting trial or on parole. Studies have found that civic action and engagement are key in reducing recidivism rates.

As an activist volunteer, you can help the ACLU’s efforts by supporting election reform in your local elections, meeting with elected officials, speaking at public meetings, helping others register to vote, and by writing letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Local elected officials and their staff judge what their constituents are looking for by reading letters to the editors in the communities they represent. We must stress the need to increase voting access for those who are detained for any reason but remain eligible to vote. We also want to make it easier to apply for absentee ballots for those who might not have a way to get to the polls.

More early, absentee, and postal voting makes the ballot box more accessible for voters and makes lines shorter on Election Day. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy, and many conservative politicians have tried to eliminate this civil right in marginalized communities, especially after former President Barack Obama was elected in 2008 with the biggest voter turnout seen in years.

It is difficult to feel like you have a voice when the White House is so outwardly oppressive, but all politicians, especially local politicians, ultimately have to answer to their constituents. Make yourself heard. Help other people be heard. Vote.