It never ceases to amaze me that when election time comes around, especially when local candidates and issues are at the forefront, many people fail to cast their ballots.
David Skolnick, The Vindicator’s political writer and city hall reporter, recently wrote elections board directors were expecting low voter turnout Tuesday. In fact, David wrote, it could be a historic low turnout.
In Mahoning County, the prediction is 17 percent to 18 percent; and 20 percent to 25 percent in Trumbull County. Does Columbiana County’s predicted turnout of 30 percent to 35 percent really deserve a round of applause?
One of the most important privileges we have as Americans and the cornerstone of our democracy is the right to vote. The ballot box gives us the ability to impact our government.
If there’s anything that angers and frustrates me is when black people and women fail to vote.
For centuries, blacks and women did not have that right in this country. That privilege was pretty much the domain of white males who owned property since our nation was formed in 1776. Our Constitution had to be amended to allow all Americans the right to vote.
It even took the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to further ensure blacks, especially in the South, could cast ballots without being threatened or killed.
So, why aren’t people voting?
There are several important races, especially in Mahoning County, that should have people lining up to cast ballots. Let me start in Youngstown. The city will have its second black mayor to begin 2018. Voters need to come out and determine if Jamael Tito Brown, Sean McKinney, Janet Tarpley, Cecil Monroe and even write-in candidate Calvin Hill Sr. have the ability, experience, desire, political savvy and guts to lead the city further into the 21st century.
Two of the candidates – Brown and Tarpley – have been elected to public offices, having served on city council. Brown also served on the Youngstown school board.
But can McKinney, Monroe or Hill bring in new, fresh ideas to move this city forward if they are elected? You can answer that question by casting your ballot.
Sarah Brown-Clark, incumbent city clerk of courts, faces a challenge from Dario Hunter, currently an outspoken school-board member. Again, this is a contested race pitting Brown-Clark’s years of experience against Hunter, who promises to bring a fresh, revitalized era to the clerk’s office.
Youngstown, and in fact the county, could have its first black woman judge in 2018.
Carla Baldwin, currently a magistrate in Mahoning County Juvenile Court, faces an opponent with one of the most familiar names in the Mahoning Valley. Atty. Mark Hanni, a veteran criminal lawyer, is the son of the late Don Hanni Jr., a former municipal court judge, tremendous criminal defense lawyer and longtime chairman of the county’s Democratic Party.
Baldwin promises to bring new, innovative ideas to the court. Hanni says he has more experience and will be tough on crime. That bit of intrigue should be enough to get you to the polls.
Eight people are running for two spots on the Youngstown school board, more than half of them write-in candidates.
The board has little power now because the school district is under the authority of CEO Krish Mohip, thanks to a state law. But Mohip won’t be here forever. Eventually, the board and a superintendent will again be in control of the district. So it is the voters’ duty to put on the panel people who are reliable, forward thinking and who will make the education of the district’s children the top priority.
Eight people are running for two Poland trustee seats; nine people are vying for four council-at-large seats in Canfield; and six people are running for three school-board seats in Austintown. Voters in those communities know what are some of the hot-button issues that will impact those races. But, will you come out and vote for the candidate you think will make a difference?
Struthers will have a new judge for the first time in decades. There’s been some mudslinging between the candidates – Dominic Leone and Damian DeGenova. Struthers residents need to show up to vote and make the decision who is best qualified to mete out justice in that community as well as in Springfield Township, New Middletown, Poland and Lowellville, which have their cases heard in Struthers Municipal Court.
Stephanie Penrose, Trumbull County elections board director, said this to Skolnick: “This election directly affects our day-to-day life, and people don’t come out to vote as much as for president or even governor. These are our local taxes and officeholders, and people don’t seem to be interested.”
That’s a shame, and it speaks to an alarming sense of apathy and laziness that curtails good government.
Don’t forget there are several school, fire and police levies as well as liquor options on the ballot that need your vote.
And please don’t give me the same lame tired excuse you don’t have time to vote. In-person early voting began Oct. 11. In-person voting at your local election board office is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today; 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday. The polls open at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7:30 p.m.
We all make time for what is important to us. I submit that voting is something that is not only easy to do, but vital.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org