Election Day is Tuesday, and the reason to come out and vote is particularly critical as Youngstown will select a new mayor and school board members.
Also on the ballot is the Community Bill of Rights, which supporters say is designed to put the clamps on fracking in the city, and a charter amendment to abolish the city’s park and recreation commission.
I have used this column in the past to make this point clear: The ability to vote is one of the greatest rights given to U.S. citizens. It is the backbone of our democracy.
For minorities and women, it is a right secured by the sacrifice of many people over the years, including Harriet Taylor Upton of Warren, who helped organize and was elected the first president of the Suffrage Association of Warren.
I don’t have to remind you that women and blacks, at one time in this country’s history, weren’t allowed to vote.
And that is what has bothered me when I hear people, especially black people, who take an “I don’t care” attitude about voting.
First, you have to be registered to vote. That means you must go to the board of elections and do that. Some churches even have voter-registration material available to ensure you complete that process.
Various black fraternities and sororities also have hosted voter-registration drives.
And guess what? All of that is free.
The next step, of course, is to actually get out of your bed on Election Day to cast your ballot. The polls will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Ohio has early voting, and of course you can always go to the elections board to get an absentee ballot.
To say you didn’t have time or opportunity to vote is weak, and frankly, inexcusable.
Voter turnout is always an issue during any election. More people come out to cast ballots during presidential or statewide elections.
But I argue that you should always make the time to vote whenever there is an election. Your vote can and does make a difference.
Let me use the school board races in Youngstown and Warren as an example.
These cities have two of the worst urban school districts in Ohio. One of the ways to try to change that dynamic is by holding accountable school board members who make the decisions impacting those districts.
The way to do that is at the ballot box.
There are five people running for three seats on the Youngstown school board and four people running for two seats on the Warren school board.
And all of those candidates just happen to be African-Americans.
This is not an unusual fact. The majority of children in both districts are black.
The candidates have expressed good ideas to improve their respective school systems. But voters will make the call as to who gets the chance to put forth their ideas.
Again, if you think your vote doesn’t matter, or you simply refuse to get out and vote, I give you another example — the May Democratic primary Youngstown mayoral race between John A. McNally IV and Jamael Tito Brown.
Brown — we are not related, though we’ve been friends for a few years — lost to McNally by 142 votes. In May, the Mahoning County elections board said there were 44,278 registered voters in Youngstown, 10,182 of whom were registered Democrats. In that spring primary, 7,779 Democrats actually cast their ballots.
How different could the mayoral race have been if Brown had won? Would independent candidate DeMaine Kitchen even have entered the race?
Here’s another example from that same primary. The 1.6-mill Boardman school levy passed by just four votes.
I could go on, but the bottom line is that voting has been, and always will be, important. Tax dollars and the fate of candidates’ political aspirations are decided by voters.
No matter who you support for Youngstown mayor — McNally, Kitchen, John Crea, Claudette Moore, Frank Bellamy or Cecil Monroe — you need to show that support by voting.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in Selma, Ala., during a protest there that kept blacks from voting, “Voting is the foundation stone for political action.”
He later said that “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I submit to you that voting does matter.
You still have a few days to study the candidates and the issues before casting your vote. Don’t be lazy. Don’t make excuses. Don’t fall prey to cynicism.
People died so everyone can have the right to vote. Don’t belittle the sacrifices they made to secure that right.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.