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Dear Ohio voters, the only way to save our democratic republic is for you to show up to vote

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Photo Credit: Tom Evanson / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dear Ohio Voters,

We need to talk. Especially those of you who skipped the primary election earlier this month. There were a lot of you who didn’t bother to vote. Turnout was the third worst on record since 1986. Nearly 8 out of 10 Ohioans who could have voted in person or by mail — didn’t.

Shame on you.

Less than 21% of Ohio voters cast a ballot to determine which candidates in statewide races, including governor, Ohio Supreme Court and U.S. Senate, would go-head-to-head in November. That means roughly 80% of eligible voters, who sat out the May 3 election, didn’t give a rat’s patootie about who should lead the state, sit on the highest court in the state or become the next U.S. Senator from Ohio.

Houston, we have a problem. Our democratic republic is in imminent danger of ending. Authoritarian forces are a general election away from overturning elections to install a strongman with absolute power. The transition to autocratic rule is happening in real time in states all across America.

The only hope we have of saving our shaky democracy is an electorate willing to fight for it. Our government of the people — or what little semblance is left of it — will die with nonvoter excuses. I’ve heard them all. Not registered. Too busy. Not interested. Wouldn’t make a difference. Don’t like the candidates. Pick one. I’m not buying any.

It is not difficulty with voting or registering to vote that causes folks to pass on elections altogether. It is apathy. Whatever. You’ve got more important things to do than participate in your government. Let others decide issues critical to your life. Let others choose who deserves elected office.

We are living with the consequences of others deciding our future for us and they’re not good. MAGA diehards, swept up in crazy conspiracy theories, exploited by political extremists and bonded in cultlike devotion to a twice-impeached loser, determine election outcomes because they show up. Turns out intolerance, ignorance, fear and hate are powerful incentives to vote.

Aggrieved voters are motivated voters.

But you stay home from the polls because, well, you’re done with politics. Give anti-democratic forces the green light to eliminate freedom. Let election deniers, (parroting the Big Lie about a “stolen” election) racists, (non-white people will replace us) misogynists, (forced birth mandates) and worse cancel our common values of decency and democratic beliefs.

Surrender your right to vote to the whims of fundamental fanatics. Invite the demise of democracy. People, we are this close to losing all vestiges of self-rule. We are beyond the urgency of a five-alarm fire. Choosing to disengage now, when your state and country most needs you to come to its aid, is not an option for any democracy-loving citizen.

This is no time for voter apathy, regardless of your disillusionment or frustration. Way too much is on the line in 2022 to have another disgraceful turnout at the polls in Ohio.

The midterm stakes couldn’t be higher for women and their right to be treated as equal citizens making their own medical decisions without government interference. The half-century constitutional right to an abortion is the right of women to choose what’s best for them. This election is a referendum on the dignity and respect of women.

The midterm stakes couldn’t be higher for Black and Brown people with ascendent white supremacy, empowered by candidates and the far-right media who amplify the racist white ‘replacement theory.’ The vile scapegoating on the campaign trail and the violence it provokes against innocents is on the ballot. This election is a referendum on bigots.

The midterm stakes couldn’t be higher for curbing endemic gun violence. Forget thoughts and prayers. This election is a referendum on commonsense gun laws and who is willing to actually do something to protect the safety of Ohioans from serial mass shootings.

The midterm stakes couldn’t be higher for fair and representative state districts where one person, one vote is not a joke. This election is a referendum on the rule of law and who is willing to honor the Ohio Constitution and its voter-approved redistricting amendments.

The midterm stakes couldn’t be higher for expanding access to voting, instead of suppressing it. For upholding free and fair elections, instead of undermining them. This election is a referendum on truth and who is willing to speak it or to reinforce the lies of a loser.

In 2020, an existential threat to democracy gave voters an increased sense of urgency and a record number of us stood up to be counted. We dodged one bullet. Not them all. The stakes of not voting in 2022 (because you’re not enthusiastic) could seal our rapid descent into an iron-fisted dystopian hell.

Only 1.6 million Ohio voters out of over 8 million cast a ballot in the May primary. That’s terrible. Don’t let it happen again. Take a stand. Stay engaged. Follow the issues. Scrutinize the candidates. Your choices couldn’t be starker.

Vote for yourself and generations hence. Vote for the democracy you still believe in while you still can. It’s not a given anymore.


Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.

This commentary was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.


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