The right to vote is one of the most fundamental of human rights. Nearly half of the world’s nations are considered a Democracy, including ours. But in the US and especially in Ohio, being registered to vote is not automatic. Reasons people give are anything from not wanting to get picked for jury duty, not believing it will make any difference to vote, and for a few, it’s a religious freedom issue as their faith doesn’t allow them to be a part of the Democratic Process.
In 2012, looking growing numbers of unregistered voters and dropping numbers of voters who actually turn, a group of about 2000 civic organizations in the US, including The League of Women Voters, HeadCount, The Bus Federation (currently Alliance for Youth Organizing), Voto Latino, Rock the Vote, and Nonprofit VOTE helped launch the first National Voter Registration Day on September 25, 2012 By 2022, the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS), the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and the National Association of Election Officials (The Election Center) had endorsed National Voter Registration Day.
My commitment and connection to voter rights work started in 2002. I have been active in campaigns and politics since I was 12 or 13. But using my law license and skills to actually protect voting rights started after a pretty great event in 2002. My wife and I welcomed our second child, James, into the world the first Monday that year. Early voting was not a thing yet in Ohio and Cheri knew she couldn’t get out to a polling place the next day and wanted to vote.
I volunteered to call down to the Lucas County Board of Elections to see if there was any way in the world to get her a ballot as it was too late for even absentee. The very kind staff person assured me it was not just possible, that they had teams that would make it happen. I gave them Cheri’s full name, and necessary info, including what hospital room she was in. Within hours a bipartisan team brought my wife a ballot and she voted it in the afternoon, having given birth to James, without pain medications. So you can see, we’ve made voting quite a thing in my family. In fact, James won’t yet forgive us for one thing. If he had been born even 5 ½ hours earlier, he could have voted in his first Presidential Election in 2020. Instead it will be 2024.
In 2004, with two amazing friends and partners we founded the Lucas County Democratic Promote the Vote Team. Since then we have helped recruit, train and deploy hundreds of volunteers to serve as Democratic Party election observers through Lucas County and in a few elections as far out as 18 counties.
Not long afterward, our team at the Law Offices of Kurt M. Young went a step further. Because I have been busy as a voter protection attorney or now Board of Elections member since 2004, we usually don’t have any appointments scheduled in the office. But some friends with a great organization with a great project they have continued to this day.
Toledo Area Jobs with Justice/Interfaith Worker Justice has for years offered free rides to the polls to any voter in Lucas County who asks. If you call 419-VOTE NOW they will schedule a door to door and back again service from where ever you need them to pick you up, take you to your polling place, wait for you to vote and then take you back. And this is for free. Now, while many of them are Democrats like myself their ranks include all political parties and you could show up wearing a t-shirt or button for a candidate or issue they don’t agree with and they would still take you there. Sadly as I rose in the ranks of the Democratic Party they decided they couldn’t do, what we did for years, which is run that phone number out of our office on Election Days, have our staff volunteer (although many of us still do) as drivers, and we do still financially support them as much as we can.
Voting is a use it or lose it right. So, as National Voter Registration Day approaches on September 19th, please go and check your voter registration. Make sure you are registered under your current name, at your current address. You can check it for any county in Ohio and get the paperwork to register, updated your address and more at: https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/
Of if you are one of our Lucas County voters there is an even better page. Got to
https://www.lucascountyohiovotes.gov/voter-information Now I think that is better not just because I am on the Lucas County Board of Elections, but also because it has features others don’t have. For instance, not only can you check your registration, you can confirm your polling place, you can see a copy of what your ballot would look like printed out so you can research your votes. You can get a list of your elected officials and how to contact them.
And, let me just say you can also sign up to work for the Lucas Count Board of Elections. In big election years we hire hundreds of paid workers to do the intense, multiple month worth of getting the elections ready, but we also hire hundreds upon hundreds more to work on Election Day itself. You can go right on the page where you check your registration and sign up right there. Again these are paid positions with paid training.
So, this Voter Registration Day, take a minute, confirm you’re registered and good to go, and get out there and vote. The Democracy you save will be your own.
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