Two Simple Civic Duties You Should Take Seriously


There’s a lot to be discouraged about right now, and it can seem overwhelming. People pretending the pandemic doesn’t exist or that it’s a political issue are threatening our lives, health, jobs, kids’ education and — horrors! — the football season.

It’s enough to make a lot of people through up their hands and drop out, believing that things can’t get better and all elected officials are the same. But things won’t get better unless you participate. And there are two key things you need to do now.

First of all, VOTE!

You may have been hearing and/or reading a lot of panicky scare stories about voting by mail, and how there is a plot to sabotage it by undermining the post office. Some of this is true, but don’t believe the worst of the stories, insisting you should not vote by mail. You SHOULD, because we don’t know what the COVID-19 situation will look like in November, or how many polling places will be open. We’ve heard Quicken Loans Arena may be used as a polling place, something that could be very discouraging to a mom with kids and a couple of low-wage jobs. It really is best to bank your vote.

But what you should NOT do is wait until late October. You can go to your county board of elections site now and request an application for a mail-in ballot (yeah, I know, an extra step), and when you get it, fill it in immediately. Supposedly, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose will be mailing an application to every registered voter in early September, but you don’t have to wait until them. Do it now. Ballots should be mailed later that month. Don’t be shy about calling the BoE if yours doesn’t arrive.

Then fill it in and mail it immediately. And you can check with most boards of election (including Cuyahoga’s) to make sure it arrived. If it’s never received? You can still go to your polling place and vote a provisional ballot on November 3. But seriously, this doesn’t happen as often as some of the overheated headlines would have you believe.

What’s the second? FILL OUT THE CENSUS. You can go online to do this if you misplaced the census form sent to you. Fill it our accurately. For most people, it’s not that much information, but they do need to count us accurately. That includes the infant, the roommate you’re not supposed to have, the homeless cousin sleeping on your couch. No one is using this information to bust you. What they ARE using it for — and this is critical — is to figure out how to allocate essential resources, which is done by population. This includes things like housing, food assistance, childcare, education and much, much more. Many cities, including Cleveland, and less affluent areas currently have a very low response rate and are in danger of being undercounted while wealthier areas tend to have a stronger response rate. That means resources will go where they’re need the least.

The other important reason for an accurate count is that the census is used to assign congressional districts. It’s projected that Ohio may lose a congressional seat, and hence, influence in Congress. An undercount in the state’s many urban areas will make this outcome more likely. In any case, it could lead to less influence in both Congress and the state legislature for people who live in urban areas — which is the majority of Ohioans.

Filling out the short census form and requesting your ballot application together should take you less than five minutes. Don’t you have five minutes to spare to make your voice heard?

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