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A ballot drop box in Athens, Ohio. Oct. 10, 2023.

Citizens discuss the importance of casting a ballot

With the Nov. 7 election quickly approaching, politicians and advocates are gathering supporters and spreading information about the issues at stake on the ballot. 

The 2023 Ohio election ballot includes positions and topics on both a state and local level. At a state level, citizens of Ohio are heading to the polls to vote on Issues 1 and 2, which could have major effects on citizens.

Issue 1 deals with abortion rights and the right to privacy in the state of Ohio. Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022, states are now able to vote on abortion access and other reproductive rights. Issue 1 proposes an Ohio constitutional amendment that would enact Section 22 of Article 1. As the Ohio Secretary of State’s Statewide Ballot Issues document states, the passing of this issue would establish “an individual’s right to one’s own reproductive medical treatment, including but not limited to abortion,” along with other reproductive safeties. 

Students at Ohio University hold strong beliefs about the issue at hand. 

Autumn Warren, a senior studying outdoor recreation and education, argued the rejection of Issue 1 will have catastrophic effects on minority populations.

“Abortion is health care, and people will die if access to abortion is limited more significantly than it already is,” Warren said. “The people that are going to be affected by it are going to be people that are already oppressed in other ways, like women of color and people in poverty.” 

Warren is not the only one who held this perspective. According to a poll taken by Spectrum News, 58% of Ohioans are likely to vote in favor of Issue 1 in November.

On the flip side, those against the installment of Issue 1 advocate for the potential dangers of accessible abortion and reproductive care.

Emma Gobert, a senior studying biology, is a member of Ohio University Students For Life. The organization works to spread information on facts related to abortion and reproductive rights, as well as resources for students.

Gobert emphasized the importance of looking at political issues from different perspectives. 

“(It’s important) to look at someone in favor of the issue and someone not in favor of the issue and kind of looking at both of those sides and why they believe in both of those sides,” she said.

The other statewide issue on the ballot this fall, Issue 2, revolves around the legalization of marijuana. Issue 2 would legalize and regulate adult use of cannabis. The passing of the issue will establish a Division of Cannabis Control and install regulations for the legal cultivation of marijuana. 

Aside from these two state issues, local elections are also important, although much less discussed. 

The Athens local election ballot includes many local officer positions including mayor, council member and Board of Education member. A proposed Athens School District bond issue and county tax levy will also appear on the ballot. 

Regardless of political opinions, many feel strongly about the importance of voting. 

Matthew Layton, an associate political science professor, discussed the impact voting in local elections has on citizens.

“Local communities are where we live our day-to-day lives,” Layton said. “While federal policy shapes our daily experience, the quality of our day-to-day life is largely driven by local factors. A lot of the things that shape the very specific details of our lives are often determined by local officials.” 

Although finding reliable and educational sources when researching local topics at stake can often be difficult compared to nationwide and presidential elections, resources are still available to those who need information before casting their vote. 

For those voting in Athens this fall, the Athens County Board of Elections website offers profiles for elected officials, candidate and voter tools, as well as information on polling sites.

“We sometimes have to work a little bit harder to get information about our choices for local elections,” Layton said. “But if you want to participate in that process of making your community a place that you want to live, it's probably worth it to get yourself informed about the local candidates—what their proposals are for how to improve the community and the direction that they want the policies of their local community to go.” 

From local officer positions to statewide issues, the importance of a vote still remains the same for eligible citizens as it allows Ohioans to speak and utilize the rights democracy offers, said Layton.

Seda Feldman, a sophomore studying social work, held passionate views regarding utilizing the right to vote.

“If you have the privilege to be able to vote, I say it’s silly to not use that privilege because not everybody has that ability,” said Feldman. “Even if it feels like you're not (directly) impacting, it's kind of more just the idea that you have the ability to.”

Although the deadline to register to vote has passed, it is still critical that those already registered remember to cast their ballot at their respective polling location Nov. 7, whether it is in their hometown or Athens County. Early voting and mail-in voting are also available for those unable to make it to a voting center Nov. 7. 

“Even if it feels like you're not impacting, like directly, just the idea that you have the ability to do so, you should use that power,” Feldman said.


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