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50th anniversary of Freedom Summer spurs Ohio voting discussion

News Desk | 7/23/2014, 10:38 a.m.
In 2010, many individuals chose not to vote for a variety of reasons and now we have certain office holders ...
Freedom Summer of 1964: Volunteers link arms and sing freedom songs before boarding the bus for Mississippi. Photograph by Ted Polumbaum (Credit Image courtesy of The Kansas African American Museum)

Recent polling shows vote is key component to Democratic success

This past month marked fifty years since the beginning of the Freedom Summer of 1964, which many may remember as a pivotal time in demonstrating the importance of why African Americans need to vote. During the summer of 1964 in Mississippi, a state that was known then as being one of the worst in suppressing Black votes, thousands of individuals from across the country, regardless of race and background, traveled to Mississippi not only to register new Black voters, but to shepherd in a new era for civil rights and equality.

The summer was met with violence and turmoil where at least seven were killed. However change was spurred, and not only were more Black Mississippians registered that year, but America took note on the importance of what was happening. That next year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ensuring that discrimination at the ballot box due to race would be prohibited by law. “The Freedom Summer was such a momentous step in helping to secure African Americans with the right to vote. However, it is just as important to register now as it was in 1964,” stated Reverend Dr. Victor Davis, senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio.

Recent polling obtained by Moving Ohio Forward backs up Rev. Dr. Davis' claim that the African American vote in Ohio will play a key role in determining who is our next Governor and the other statewide officeholders.

“The polling we have obtained shows that Democrats need to mobilize voters in African American communities to have the opportunity to be success in this year's election,” states Moving Ohio Forward spokesman Ryan Monell. Moving Ohio Forward is a new, non-profit organization that works to highlight disparities of statewide officeholders and inform Ohioans on issues like voter suppression, spending disparities, and lack of funding to key state programs under the Governor and statewide officeholders.

“In midterm elections, like this year, a few voting blocks can make the difference in who ultimately wins these statewide elections. In 2010, many individuals chose not to vote for a variety of reasons and now we have certain office holders who support policies that completely undermine African American communities,” followed Davis.

Moving Ohio Forward cites examples such as Secretary of State Jon Husted's support of reducing early voting periods and the elimination of in person, weekend early voting. “Jon Husted and his friends in the legislature have not let up on making it harder to vote since they came into office over three years ago, and many have affected African Americans specifically,” said Monell.

“His policies that put restrictions on voting early or by absentee ballot deprive voters of options and rigs the deck against minorities, older Ohioans, and working single parents. It's important to be registered and make a plan on how you will exercise your vote this year,” continued Monell.

As a result, all Ohioans should be aware of where their polling place is or decide to vote early by mail or in person at their local Board of Elections. For Cuyahoga County residents, calling the County Board of Elections at (216) 443-3200 or visiting their website at boe.cuyahogacounty.us is the quickest way to check your voting registration or request an absentee ballot application.

“While America has come a long way since 1964 in protecting our rights to vote, this is not the time to sit back and fail to exercise the freedoms those before us fought so hard to instill for us. Instead, African Americans need to be empowered and ready to vote, because just like in 1964, our voices need to be heard loud and clear in November,” stated Rev. Dr. Davis.

Early voting will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 7, and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, with polls opening at 6:30 a.m., through 7:30 p.m..