Guest column/Many reasons to become active in voting process

You may have thought you always had the right to vote; however, if you have not voted in a while, you may not have that right and may have been dropped from the list unless you register again. Don’t take your right to vote for granted. Too many people fought and died for that right and you should get in the habit of voting regularly.

Women didn’t always have the right to vote until 1920. And, people of color have been battling the right to vote for more than 50 years. Even with the Voting Rights Act that was passed in 1964, some are blocked from voting in many states, where voter suppression comes in many forms.

Tens of thousands of Ohio voters were dropped from the voters list simply because they failed to vote as recently as two years, according to an article in ABC News published in June 2016. It is recommended now that you check every four-year voting cycle to update your voter information… and do it 30 days in advance of the election.

Over the years, the American Civil Liberties Union has advocated for reforms to allow early voting, on-line registration and same-day voter registration. Recently, Oregon passed a law allowing voter registration through vehicle registration. That doesn’t solve the problem for non-drivers but it helps move us into the 21 century where automatic voter registration should be a norm. Even college students, who are advised to submit a provisional ballot, may be denied their voting privilege, if they lack a valid ID, because their college ID wouldn’t do. Many times they have their provisional ballots turned down. Keep in mind that not all 18-year-olds have a driver’s license, especially in large cities where public transportation is the norm.

In most recent news, Trump’s commission on election integrity sent letters to all 50 states requesting quite a lot of personal information, besides date of birth, name and address and party affiliation, which they can just have downloaded.

It also asked for the last four digits of Social Security numbers and voting history since 2006. This is a good way to encourage voters who may not wish everyone, including the general public, to have this information to simply not register to vote. It certainly appears that in many cases this could be considered voter suppression since many people do not want this information to be well known and may stay away from the voting booth. Voting rights can also be subjected to partisan redistricting or gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is a process that draws districts that make no sense other than establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries. They did it in North Carolina, where Republicans drew illegally gerrymandering districts and were ruled by the Supreme Court that it was unconstitutional and described the process with the phrase “surgical precision.” And still, they are refusing to participate in a special session to redraw the maps.

Wisconsin also is going through a case that may be taken up by the Supreme Court. Where a lower court’s findings that Wisconsin redistricting effort was more than just unconstitutional, it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment and equal rights protections with partisan gerrymandering that reduced the influence of racial minorities by suppressing the impact of their vote.

Even in Ohio, the 6th Congressional District underserves its constituents in the ridiculous size of it. Republicans have held this district captive for 20 years. You, the voters, have the power to change it by putting an end to gerrymandering.

My Republican friends like to claim that we rely on government too much and should be looking at taking power from the politicians and putting it into the hands of the people, but we did find common ground in 2015.

In 2015 Ohioans voted overwhelmingly for Issue 1, which created a bipartisan process to draw lines for state legislative districts. Unfortunately, it did not draw lines for congressional districts. So we have to try again to end gerrymandering in Ohio by first passing the petition test.

On March 30, Attorney General Mike Dewine finally approved the wording for the petition and will allow it to move forward in the form of a vote. Since this is a huge undertaking in such a short period of time for gathering more than 330,000 signatures of registered voters (which also must represent one half, or 44 of the 88 Ohio counties), there may not be enough time to get on the 2017 ballot. The good news is that all signatures will be allowed to accumulate and be ready for the issue to get on the 2018 ballot. Don’t wait for a Supreme Court ruling, because as we see what is happening in North Carolina, state officials can drag their feet on the process and affect voting rights. And, you won’t see it on a ballot unless it gathers enough signatures on the petition.

If you are approached by a neighbor about the petition to end gerrymandering, consider signing it so we can vote on this issue in the 2018 mid-term election. If you see a political tent set up at a local county fair and wish to sign the petition, please do so. Help stop gerrymandering by either party. Prominent Republicans as well as Democratic leaders are for ending gerrymandering. It is your right to sign the petition, provided you are a registered voter in Ohio. You may visit your county board of elections to register, or you may register online.

If you live in Jefferson County, you can Google registration information for Jefferson County, Ohio, and order a voter registration form.

(Antinone is a member of the Jefferson County Progressive Democratic Coalition.)