Youngstown pastor stumps for voter registration

By Marc Kovac


For the Rev. Michael Harrison, voting is a right and not a privilege.

And it’s a right that all eligible citizens need to exercise, Harrison told a group gathered outside the Statehouse on Thursday as part of the start of a registration drive that participants hope will result in tens of thousands of new Ohio voters.

“It is imperative that we participate in the process,” said the Rev. Mr. Harrison, pastor of Union Baptist Church on Youngstown’s North Side. “We can no longer afford to allow special interests to be in control of the destiny of our cities.”

He added, “There are too many people who sacrificed their lives and their livelihood in order for voting to take place. And we can’t afford to allow it to dwindle it away.”

Mr. Harrison serves as co-chairman of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a coalition of union, faith and advocacy groups that focuses on “minimum-wage reform, ending mass incarceration and combatting climate change,” among other issues.

The group hopes to register 150,000-plus Ohioans to vote in advance of the November general election. Collaborative members said Thursday they have already registered 20,000 voters as part of the effort.

The Rev. Troy Jackson, who heads a Cincinnati-area multicongregation social-justice group, said the voter-registration drive is not in support of any particular presidential candidate.

“We want people to engage in the process, and we want them to vote their conscience, what they feel like is best for themselves or families in their communities,” he said.

Mr. Harrison said roughly one-quarter of voting-age Americans have not registered to vote.

“We’ve made it up in our mind that we’re going to get them out to vote,” he said. “It is important, because the only thing we have is our vote. In the city of Youngstown, which is overwhelmingly economically depressed, there are those who are satisfied with the status quo. ... But the power that we have, the opportunity that we have, exists in the fact that we go to the polls, and that way the community can speak for its future, for its opportunities and for its destiny.”

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