73 Percent Obie Voter Turnout in 2018 — We Can Do Better

Many of us have been waiting for this election for a long, long time — but the moment is finally here. This editorial is coming early this year because voting needs to happen early this year. We know you’ve probably seen dozens of Instagram graphics and Twitter threads, but here we’re going to provide a few more reasons why Oberlin must vote. 

At this time we’re approaching not just the presidential election, but also seeing a pivotal congressional race play out in our district and casting our ballots to choose the College’s newest student senators. In the first two of those three ongoing races, 2020 boasts some truly terrifying incumbents. On the national level, we’re reaching the end of Donald Trump’s elected term. Locally, Ohio’s 4th Congressional District — which includes the City of Oberlin — is still represented by Republican Congressman Jim Jordan. Both of these offices are on the ballot this year, and it’s incumbent on voting Obies and Ohio residents to unseat these men. 

This past year, Associate Professor and Chair of Geology Zeb Page’s independent research found that 1,737 Oberlin students registered to vote in Lorain County for the 2018 general election. Of those students, 1,273 cast a ballot — a 73 percent turnout. This year, we must do even better. 

Oberlin’s district is known to be insurmountably gerrymandered, and even strong Democratic candidates such as Janet Garrett have not been able to breakthrough. Although the shape of Ohio’s district has not changed since Garrett last ran in 2018, much else has. Jordan is well-known nationally for his uncompromising conservative views and unwavering support of Trump. He is also known for his connection to The Ohio State University controversy, in which he was allegedly complicit in covering up instances of sexual misconduct during his time as a wrestling coach.

Trump doesn’t have a good record in Ohio, and his handling of the economy, unemployment, and the COVID-19 pandemic will lose him many supporters — among them, former independent OH-4 candidate Chris Gibbs. As Ohio loses its Trump supporters, the Jordan supporters will be lost with them. This could be what gives Shannon Freshour a fighting chance. 

As the Editorial Board wrote last November, those who have written Ohio off as red have done so hastily — Ohio remains a swing state. Biden appeals to working-class voters, and he has a chance to win this state. As Senator Sherrod Brown told CBS News, “People that voted for Trump in ’16 feel that he’s betrayed them and he’s abandoned this political piece, abandoned the promises he’s made, and I think a lot of them are voting for Biden.” Ohio may not be the same swing state it was a decade ago, but it is still very much in play. Our votes here matter. 

Many Obies agree that even democratic party leadership has its shortcomings and that our system was not built for all those that it claims to serve. But voting within the system and revolutionary activism outside the system are not inherently at odds. There’s a difference between policy enactment actively motivated by racism, xenophobia, and homophobia, and governance that will respond to progressive and radical organizing. While voting is the bare minimum, we can make a difference by ensuring that Ohio’s 4th District is not represented by Jim Jordan and that the country is not led by Donald Trump. Those of us who can make that difference this year have no excuse not to.

For many on the left, misgivings about a Biden-Harris ticket have guided the conversation — we started with so many options, and ended up with candidates far more moderate than many may have hoped. And while these hopes and frustrations always merit thought, discussion, and organizing, the reality is that refusing to vote proves nothing. Not voting, in a country that touts freedom and democracy yet actively robs so many of participation in these ideals, is a marker of deep complicity, and a short-term decision. If in January we are still a red country, still a country politically entrenched in harming citizens and upholding the status quo, no one will have won — certainly not a student body hoping to change the world.

In thinking of our student body and its interests, we have a final point to make here. Student Senate has an incredibly large pool of qualified candidates this year, with all sorts of life experiences and involvement at Oberlin. Voting for our next student senators closes this Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, and any Oberlin student, on campus or off, can vote. 

It is common for a majority of students to not cast their votes in these elections. Ask yourself some key questions: Do you support #BlackOutSenate and Black Obies’ determination to effect change on campus? Who will bring new and important perspectives? Who will bring valuable insight and experience? This is a truly dynamic pool of candidates, and it behooves all of us to make use of our choices and elect a senate we’re excited about, and one that will make important moves at this school. 

One thing Obies typically agree on is that there is always room for improvement and a need for change. When we vote in these elections — on our campus, in our state, and for our country — we show that we care about this imperfect world and the citizens and students in it. 

Voter Friendly Campus, a working group at Oberlin made up of faculty, staff, and students, is working to assist all students with the absentee ballot process. With the USPS in a funding crisis, voting early is crucial to making sure that your voice is heard in electoral representation. Absentee ballot request forms were available for all on-campus students at move-in, and students can turn in their forms at Stevenson Dining Hall, Slow Train Cafe, and other locations around town. Students must register to vote by Oct. 5, request a mail-in ballot by Oct. 31, and have their ballot returned to the Lorain County Board of Election as early as possible before the Nov. 3 deadline.