“Voting is the Way We Fight For Our Country” in Ohio
In Ohio, voters know their vote matters – and they face real challenges making their voices heard. That’s why state captain Josh MacKintosh was eager to return, after working in Toledo for Hillary in 2016. “2016 was my first experience going to a state where everyone is fighting for your vote,” Josh recalls. “It’s completely different from Seattle, the way the culture works around voting and elections. In Ohio, people want to know their representatives are going to be fighting for them in Congress. It’s so, so critical we fight for Democrats in that state.”
Ohio doesn’t make it easy to vote. Voters must show ID at the polls, and can be purged from the voter rolls for skipping an election. Hundreds of thousands have lost their right to vote this way, particularly among low-income communities, people of color and youth. “We take ID for granted, but it costs money to get one,” Josh shares. “Some folks, in this political climate, are scared of making themselves traceable to government in any capacity. They want to avoid any interaction with a hostile administration.”
Volunteer Suzy Kellett canvassed in many immigrant and refugee communities. “A lot of people in these apartment complexes didn't want to answer their door. Most of the men were out working, and women were at home with their children. They’re scared of ICE and terrified of Trump.” At one door, Suzy met a young Somali woman who invited her in and said she wanted to volunteer. “She said, ‘I know everyone in this complex, I want to help my people get out to vote.’ She needed help, because she didn’t know how to do it, but she was willing.” Suzy connected her with Campaign for Ohio, the local Democrats.
At many doors, people didn’t realize they were eligible to vote. Team Ohio let them know they could, and helped them come up with a plan. For those without an ID, they advised that during early voting, an ID isn’t necessary. Liz Strain noted how much voters appreciated the ability to vote early. “These were hard working families and it seemed clear they would not be able to vote without the weekend options.” Audrey Vaughn and Constance Wettack each spoke to someone who thought they couldn’t vote due to a past felony conviction, but were so excited to learn they can. Constance recalls, “I was glad to tell him he can vote and we need him!”
The Columbus area is racially diverse, with large refugee and immigrant populations. Some Common Purpose volunteers were paired with local volunteers for their daily canvassing, many of whom were members of those communities. Suzy Kellett visited a local Bhutanese family that she had mentored near Seattle, when they first arrived in the United States after 17 years in a Nepalese refugee camp. They were thriving in the large local Bhutanese community and thrilled to reconnect. Suzy shares, “One of the sons, Laxmi, has always been very involved in everything. When I saw him, I asked if he'd consider being a contact with Democrats for the Bhutanese community. My hope is that Laxmi will make sure the Bhutanese community around Columbus will vote.”
Team Ohio’s most important goal was getting out the vote, but Josh hoped that Common Purpose volunteers would find “a new perspective on what voting is to so many people,” in a state where voters fiercely value their vote. Ohio voters take their job seriously and think deeply about the meaning of their vote. As one voter told Constance, “Voting is the way we fight for our country.”
Written by Christena Coutsoubos