We all know this has been a trying and frustrating time. On the one hand, things have been moving very fast, and on the other, things seem to not be moving at all. It is incredibly important that we all keep calm and try to create a new normal for the time being, no matter how difficult that may be. I know so many of us are personally affected by this crisis, and the coming weeks or months will be a worthy challenge, but we can get through this together. I know we can.
Many of us have found ourselves with a lot more time than usual to sit and reflect. We all have opinions about how this crisis is being handled at all levels. I have been working diligently to ensure people could have their voices heard on behalf of the Stark County NAACP. We have been combating the voter purge at the ground level by going door to door and re-registering all the people who were listed as purged from the voter rolls. We were making significant progress in Canton before we had to suspend operations and do our part to flatten the curve. I was working in concert with the Secretary of State’s office to keep people informed about the precautions being taken to carry out a free, fair, and safe election here in Ohio.
We were assured going into the morning of Monday, March 16 that everything was ready to go, that we would have curbside voting, and that we would be able to keep people safe. Like so many of you, I was shocked to find the chaos and confusion of Election Day.
Your civil rights are a priority to me, this chapter and the NAACP at large. I want to make sure that everyone can exercise their right to vote in the safest and most efficient way possible, and we’re not alone. Generally speaking, we’ve seen a great deal of competence coming out of Columbus, but the fumbling of the March 17 election was a disappointment. There were precautions that could have been taken weeks in advance, and if the election needed to be postponed, mere hours before polls opened was not the time to do so.
Now, the Legislature has determined that April 28 will be the deadline for voting, with in-person voting only available to Ohioans with disabilities on that day and only at the county Board of Elections. The rest of us will vote using mail-in ballots. Originally, every Ohioan was to be sent a request form for an absentee ballot, but now you will just be mailed a postcard telling you to request the request form yourself.
I would suggest you make the situation less complicated and go to vote.ohio.org or call your local Board of Elections to get a request form sent to you.
You will be able to send in your vote as long as it is postmarked by April 27. Ballots can be dropped off at the Board of Elections until April 28.
Some of our neighbors are going to need some help, especially those that don’t have access to printers. There are currently no restrictions, and you can print for other people if they don’t have access. We are in this together, and lending a hand is what we do in times like these. Vote by mail is our best option to protect the right to vote at this stage.
The point I want to stress to you is just how quickly and easily this election was essentially “called off.” This sets a dangerous precedent and we cannot be tempted to follow down the path being set. This country has held elections during the Civil War, the Spanish flu outbreak, and World War II, and we didn’t postpone anything. We are more informed and more capable today than at any other point in American history, so we have the ability to make sure the 2020 election is free, fair, and safe for everyone come November. We cannot press the panic button and abdicate our civic duty out of fear or lack of will.
History is being written right now. How we act during this time is going to define us until the end of days, so we must be people of action, and take the lead to protect our democracy.
During times of crisis I find that things become clear. It’s easier to see the cracks in our system when the system is under this kind of stress. This is a perfect opportunity to use your voice.
Do you feel like all of this is beyond your control and you don’t have a way to make an impact? You can VOTE for that and make your voice heard!
Do you understand that the working class isn’t JUST people in hard hats, but includes millions of parents and young people in the service industry? You can VOTE and make sure you have their backs!
Do you want to reform our sluggish healthcare system because of these exact conditions that threaten to overwhelm it? You can VOTE for that reform!
Do you think we have to protect working people, and not just corporate interests, especially in dire situations like the one we’re in? You can VOTE for that!
Does being cooped up in the house make you appreciate nature and our public parks, lands and trails even more? You can VOTE and preserve those!
Our freedoms mean nothing if we don’t exercise them. This matters now more than ever. Stay tuned. We’re going to get through this together, and you’ll be hearing more from me.
Willis Gordon is Political Chairman of the Stark County NAACP.