Opinion by Ben Dickison
Like a liberty bell ringing in my ear, I’m told to vote, to tell my friends to come to the student center to vote and even to drive friends to the polls every Tuesday on which an election falls. It’s one of the most beautiful social behaviors that we have constructed — voting. But there is merit in voting only if one has taken the time to properly educate themselves on the impactful choices in their hands and the ramifications that the passing — or lack thereof — of a proposal will have.
I’m biased, yes, and maybe a little salty, as the kids say these days; I canvassed for the “Yes for Truly Affordable Housing” campaign organized by Cincy Action for Housing Now. Cincy Action for Housing Now is the group behind a proposed City Charter amendment called as Issue 24 on ballots within Cincinnati city limits. Issue 24, had it passed, would have simply put a tax levy on the 2024 ballot to raise the City Earnings Tax from 1.8% to 2.1%. This would fill the Cincinnati Affordable Housing Trust Fund with $50 million more per year in an effort to provide rent assistance, mortgage assistance and fund more affordable housing as needed by those most affected by the inequities and gentrification stemming from the revitalization of Over-the-Rhine.
A concerning theme emerged as I spent over 50 hours venturing from door to door and working the polls on Nov. 7: Damn near every person I spent time with was slow to emphasize the research and discernment a voter should take on before casting a ballot. Not only this, but they were lightning quick to make assumptions regarding legislation they either had only heard about from my pitch or heard nothing about at all.
On multiple occasions while canvassing for Issue 24, I was met with the question, “Is it liberal?”
I responded on each occasion with something along the lines of, “It’s very progressive in that-,” only completing about half of my sentence before the voter had made their decision..
I remember specifically one individual cutting me off at that point, quipping, “Progressive is all I needed to hear. When it comes to supporting progressive legislation, I’m like Flo.” That comment gave me a hearty chuckle, but in practice is quite problematic. And this is not an isolated incident.
Regardless of my pitch, an implicit yet unconditional support of Issue 24 was invoked at the mention of affordable housing. Without understanding any logistics of the bill, like where the $50 million came from, they told me they were voting in favor of the amendment. I acknowledge that the Issue 24 campaign benefitted from the willingness of voters to be logistically ignorant in regard to the bills they support.
However, on election day, I realized the “Yes on 24” campaign may have been akin to the resistance against the Empire that is the Hamilton County Democratic Party. Let me be clear: The Democratic Party of our county did nothing outside the parameters they are designated to operate within, and I was participating in essentially the same distribution of media the Party representative was. The one difference: the Dems handed out an endorsement sheet listing names and “yes” or “no” next to each of the issues on the ballot with no elaboration. N
Not to my surprise, the results of the vote matched the instructions of the ballot. Cincinnati is a blue city, and as the Democratic establishment wishes, things tend to go. The lone City Council candidate that was not re-elected was the one left off the endorsement sheet: Republican Liz Keating.
I tend to side with Hamilton County Democrats when it comes to most elections, but having a City Council in which almost every member publicly took the same general stances on legalizing marijuana, selling our city’s most valuable asset (the Cincinnati Southern Railway) and Issue 24 will lead to an echo chamber at the city government level.
The person handing out endorsements, by the way, commandeered multiple people into voting for a school board candidate simply by uttering the phrase, “Kendra Mapp for School Board.” She did show impartiality as she also vocally supported Bryan Cannon, who was not on the endorsement sheet, and convinced a passerby to vote for him by the end of their conversation.
As a Kentuckian, I am used to seeing straight ticket voting on my ballot. Straight ticket voting is an insult to the democratic process, undermining the amount of research one should conduct before electing someone to represent their “best” interest and to be paid by them. If we simply vote to appease one party, we will make short-sided decisions and lose interest in following the impact of the votes we make. The people in government should not be the only people aware of the impact of their legislation. The key issues in Cincinnati are in our hands just as much as theirs.
If the failure of Issue 24 was genuinely what most Cincinnatians rendered best, I can accept that. If the failure of Issue 24 was a manifestation of an assimilation of voters in service to the “R” or “D” that appears next to their name, it is a problem that will only become more dire if not confronted.