“We Need a Culture Shift: The REAL Realities of the 2020 November Election for Black Voters”

(By Ms. Alicia Reece, 2020 Democratic Candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner in the State of Ohio.)

As a 20-year political veteran from the State of Ohio, I am currently the Democratic Candidate for Hamilton County Commissioner and running the race of my life. There have always been challenges in every one of my campaigns. However, in 2020, the stakes are higher than ever before. As many know, you cannot win the Presidency without winning the State of Ohio. Specifically, my area of Hamilton County is one of 24 key swing counties in the state. At the same time, I am an African American woman, and the only one on the general election ballot for the Democratic Party. Given my reality, I am here to share what I have learned from my primary election and why Black Voters are in trouble in November. On the eve of the primary election in the State of Ohio, the Governor halted the election due to the Coronavirus on March 16, 2020. As a result, our primary turned into a mail-in only election. As the creator of the Ohio Bill of Rights as well as known for defeating David Duke when I was a student at Grambling State University, I am well steeped in Civil Rights and all too familiar with Black voters ALWAYS wanting to go to the polls to vote in an effort to ensure their vote gets counted. With a mail-in only primary election within the backdrop of the confines and confusion of the global pandemic, Black voters in Ohio had literally no clue as to what to do or what was the new process. Moreover, the Black senior citizens were scared to leave their residences.

Instead of waiting for the City, County or State to help, my team and I went to work to educate, motivate, and mobilize Black voters. We used every means of communication possible to speak to Black voters, from social media, like Facebook and Instagram, and hashtags (#votingisessential) to old-fashion phone calls and drive-in ballot collections at Black churches, Black-owned businesses, gas stations, and grocery store parking lots. Masks on and sanitizer in hand, my team and I were everywhere in the County to make sure Black voters were informed and were taught how to properly complete and submit their ballots. On the April 28th primary election day, my race was the only one that could not be confirmed due to roughly 18,000 provisional ballots that still needed to be counted. Two weeks later when the final count was revealed, we learned that out of those 18,000 provisional ballots, a little over 3,000 were viable ballots and were completed correctly. The Hamilton County Board of Elections in their public meeting on May 14th reported all of the numerous reasons that they had to throw out ballots. From simply printing one’s name on the wrong line to not signing (in cursive) one’s name on another line, and so on and so. Thousands of ballots were thrown out and those voters will NEVER know!

Once upon a time, in order to vote during the Jim Crow era, Black people had to first count the number of jelly beans in a jar. In 2020, what additional shenanigans and barriers will be created to keep Black people from voting? I believe that we MUST have a culture shift so that Black voters can be heard and counted (correctly). A mail-in only process is not the answer. If this happens, education and resources are desperately needed, and we must start now! Voter registration must also start now because a lot of voters have been purged. We need to start checking in with those of us on the ground. This election is too critical for voters to be disenfranchised due to chaos and confusion. It is time expand democracy for all Americans! #votingisessential

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