Making an Issue of Voting Rights
Concern about voter suppression, including curtailing of voter registration, purging of voters from voter registration rolls, and other measures designed to affect elections by influencing who gets to cast ballots, is widespread. However, little has been done to tranlate this concern into a concrete election issue. That may be beginning to change.
When I went to part of an all-day forum on voting irregularities held at Cleveland State University's Levin College of Urban Affairs on June 9th, I was pleased to see Secretary of State candidate Jennifer Brunner (D-Columbus) in attendance, taking copious notes. (Her opponent, Hamilton County Clerk Greg Hartmann (R-Cincinnati), by way of contrast, has praised Secretary of State Ken Blackwell's heavily criticised handling of elections.) One of the speakers that morning was Chris Nance, an aide to Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Cleveland), who reported on five community forums organized by Tubbs Jones to collect voters' experiences in the primary election in May.
Since that time, Brunner has hosted similar forums in Youngstown and Dayton, gathering statements from voters about their concerns and their experiences in registering to vote or at the voting booth. Now she has teamed up with State Auditor candidate Barbara Sykes (D-Akron) to host another such forum in Akron:
State Representative and Candidate for State Auditor, Barbara Sykes and Ohio Secretary of State Candidate Jennifer Brunner, want to hear from voters, poll workers, activists, and concerned citizens regarding your thoughts and experiences on voting in the greater Akron area. They will host a Voter’s Forum to hear citizens’ concerns and experiences with the Ohio election process.These forums are an excellent way to help take the general worry about election fairness from the area of hopelessness and cynicism to the area of focussed attention and concrete proposals for improvement. If candidates can merely convince voters that they hear their voices and care about protecting their right to vote, and that the candidates have specific ideas for how to protect that right, then I believe voting rights could become a leading issue in the election.
What: VOTER FORUM
When: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 – 6:30 p.m.
Where: Akron Public Library
Main Branch 60 S. High Street
Akron, OH 44326
This leads me to the Voting Rights Pledge issued by 1st Ohio Congressional District candidate John Cranley (D-Cincinnati) last week:
VOTING RIGHTS PLEDGEThis is a simple and powerful pledge in which all of our Congressional candidates should join.
Whereas, the right to vote is a hallmark of American freedom; and
Whereas, the right to vote has not always been readily available to all Americans; and
Whereas, recent elections and actions by Congress have revealed that there are still forces within our country who will go to considerable lengths to make it more difficult for some Americans to exercise the right to vote; and
Whereas, every branch of government, and especially the United States Congress, should take whatever steps necessary to ensure that no American will ever be unfairly denied the right to cast a vote, and whereas Congress should take steps to prevent anyone from being discouraged from voting;
Therefore, I hereby proclaim that as an elected official, I will continue to work to uphold the precious right to vote and remove any and all barriers intended to discourage Americans from exercising that right; and
Further proclaim that, upon election to the United States House of Representatives, I will always vote to uphold the Voting Rights Act and support efforts to make it easier for Americans to take full advantage of the right to vote.