It is also the cornerstone of our democracy. Encourage Senator Portman to step up to the responsibility entrusted to him to protect our right to vote freely and fairly.
Molly Malany Sayre is an assistant professor of social work at the University of Dayton
The ability to vote is essential in a functioning democracy, and we need our democracy to function in order to address our present and future challenges.
Some Ohioans, especially those with minority racial identities, lower incomes, or minority sexual or gender identities, have less control over their lives because of discrimination from criminal justice, economic, and other systems. Lack of control contributes to chronic stress, which takes a severe toll on physical and mental health. One way to exercise autonomy in our society is by voting. As such, voting and other forms of political involvement—yes, even protesting—are health behaviors. To address our state’s lack of health equity, voting must be protected, must be safe, and must be possible for all, including those for whom absentee voting is not an option.
In an open letter to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, more than 200 Ohio medical professionals, faith leaders, and voter advocate organizations have outlined several common-sense measures that will protect voters’ health and our ability to participate safely in the upcoming election. For in-person voting, these include:
- Those with underlying conditions should be able to ask for “special protection,” such as voting outdoors or preference in voting order to reduce their indoor exposure to others.
- Masks should be available and required. For those unable to wear masks, outdoor or isolated areas for voting should be available, and existing rules regarding “drive through” arrangements for those with disabilities should be utilized.
- Plastic barriers should be installed between poll workers and voters at any points where interactions lasting longer than one minute are expected.
- At a minimum, absentee and early voting needs to be as accessible as possible to protect the health of vulnerable groups such as older adults and people with underlying medical conditions.
LaRose has voiced support for several measures that would protect our right to vote safely: expansion of early in-person voting sites and permitting online requests for absentee ballots. These are also important and should be implemented. Obviously, these measures have costs that go beyond the budget for a typical election.
Therefore, we need Sen. Rob Portman to support the $3.6 billion in election funding that the House passed in May.
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