Educator Voices

Ohio educators push early voting in make-or-break presidential state

by Félix Pérez

Early voting began today in Ohio — yet again the make-or-break state for the presidential election — and educators aren’t taking any chances. Many, concerned that expected long lines on Election Day may lead some voters to sit out this election, are urging other voters to cast their ballot early either in person or by absentee ballot.

“Educators can’t afford not to vote,” said Canton high school teacher Kelli Green. “For us in Ohio, it’s pretty obvious from the last gubernatorial election that we need all our teachers voting.”

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Green was referring to the election in 2010 of Governor John Kasich, who led the divisive effort to pass a law last year that severely weakened the collective bargaining rights of 360,000 public servants, including teachers and education support professionals. The law was defeated, 61-39, in a citizens’ referendum in November.

Green is voting absentee so she has “time to get others out to vote.”

Debbie Bernauer, who retired in June as an elementary school teacher, said, “If we learned nothing else last year it’s that every education decision is a political decision.”

Bernauer, who is voting by absentee ballot, said she is concerned that recent polls showing President Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney might convince some people their vote isn’t necessary. “Polls change all the time. We shouldn’t take anything for granted. The future of public education rests with us.”

Election observers project that as many as 40 percent of Ohioans, or more than 2 million voters, may cast an early vote this election.

Voting rights have been much in the news in Ohio.

Last month a federal judge ruled that Ohioans should be allowed to vote in-person on the final three days prior to Election Day. Republican lawmakers last year voted to end in-person voting the weekend before Election Day.

Ohio State student Shannon Shaver

Last October, more than 300,000 Ohioans signed a petition asserting that a new law restricting voting should be reversed because it erected politically motivated barriers that would severely limit access to voting for the elderly, college students, minorities, the poor and the disabled. Republican lawmakers repealed most of the law in May to avoid an all-but-certain total repeal by voters.

Because of all the tumult surrounding voting laws in her state, Ohio State University student and future educator Shannon Shaver took part last month in a Voter Commitment registration drive on her campus sponsored by the National Education Association. “The most important thing to me in this election is education. I became involved because I feel like students can make an enormous difference.”

Canton high school librarian and information science specialist Susan Ridgeway wrote a column titled “5 Reasons Why Every Educator Needs to Vote.” Read it here.    

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