Friday, Jul 01, 2016
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio

Rose Russell

Many died for nothing so blacks could vote

AS MY husband and I left our polling place around 6:40 Tuesday night, he lamented the scarcity of voters and recalled that civil rights workers died so African-Americans could have the right to vote.

I was surprised to learn that shortly before the polls closed I was only the 95th voter. When I asked a poll worker how many voters are in the precinct, he shook his head, deploring the fact that out of 600 registered voters, less than a sixth voted.

While that's a shame, it's sadder that 60 percent of the voters in my precinct are African-American. Those no-show voters had plenty of company. Out of 292,520 citizens registered to vote in Lucas County's 495 precincts - Toledo has 324 precincts - only 20 percent voted in the primary, according to unofficial results.

On our walk to the car in the near-empty parking lot, my husband talked about how blacks were humiliated when white poll workers used to put up barriers to keep them from voting. Blacks had water hoses and dogs turned on them while demonstrating for that right, he remembered. We both mourned that the demonstrations seem so long ago that it's as if they are deep in history.

But they can't be forgotten. If politicians have their way, they might try to impose more burdens on voters. It's enough that voters will have to show identification starting with the special elections in August. Thank the Republicans for that law, which the Democrats call the "Republican Preservation Act."

Imagine how upset people will be if they still don't know by the November elections that they have to show ID before they can vote.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to say what it will take to make citizens embrace this civic responsibility. How often do we see images showing long lines and throngs of people in foreign nations waiting to vote under difficult conditions? And Americans simply dismiss the duty as not weighty enough to bother.

I know primary elections don't usually spark enough interest to force registered voters from their easy chairs and to the polls. In the late summer and fall, after the seemingly endless political cacophony, voters may feel as though they are personally deleting the din when they touch the "cast ballot" spot on touch-screen voting machines.

Before this primary, there seemed to be more political ads than I have noticed before. Still only 20 percent of registered voters in Lucas County went to the polls. It's pitiful that some used the lousy excuse that "it was just a primary."

Every election is important. On Tuesday, voters had a say in which politicians' names go on the November ballot. For most to leave that decision up to one in five registered voters was to relinquish that responsibility.

Now, whoever didn't vote in the primary shouldn't complain about the politicians or issues. Too bad if you wanted Republican Attorney General Jim Petro to take on Democratic state Rep. Bryan Flannery for governor. Although it didn't seem that either had much chance of winning, elections have been won by only a few votes. Those candidates lost to the GOP's Secretary of State Ken Blackwell and Democrat Congressman Ted Strickland.

While every citizen should know how vital it is to vote in every election, it's perplexing that so many African-Americans don't make voting a rule. Black citizens who know what it took for President Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and who don't insist that others vote because they don't vote themselves, should be ashamed.

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