OUR VIEW: We urge citizens to defend democracy, vote

Confidence in our voting process is being rocked in unprecedented ways by forces inside our nation and abroad.

Yet the process we hold so dear today has always been messy and imperfect in America.

ExploreOur commitment to readers this election

The majority of white men in our nation could vote by the time Andrew Jackson took on John Quincy Adams in the 1828 presidential elections, but after winning independence from Britain, only white male property owners over age 21 were granted the right.

ExploreFlood of absentee ballot requests creating board of elections backlog

Before the 19th amendment was signed 100 years ago, it was legal to deny a woman the right to vote just because she was a woman.

And while the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870 made it unconstitutional to deny the right to vote based on race, it had to be followed by the Voting Rights Act signed nearly 100 years later to remove state-level restrictions.

As messy and imperfect as its history is here, voting provides citizens a voice in democracy and has always been a critical thing to fight for and do.

It is a right and obligation not afforded to millions around the globe, yet often taken for granted on our shores.

ExploreWhen it comes to the election, many people aren’t upset or perturbed. They are angry.

Only the most creative among us could have imagined even a few decades ago that our process of voting would face the stresses it faces today.

Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Russia was “very active” in its efforts to influence our elections primarily to “denigrate” Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by using social media, and “proxies, state media, online journals” and other means.

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President Donald Trump and others have been adamant that China is meddling in the process to get Biden elected.

Trump and others have also been adamant that there will be fraud due to increased mail-in voting in November expected because of coronavirus.

More than one-third of Americans intend to vote by mail in November, according to a recent Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project survey.

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Frank LaRose, the Buckeye State’s secretary of state and a Republican, has said Ohio has successfully done mail-in voting for years and will continue to do it securely.

This sentiment is co-signed by local elections officials, as well as Ohio’s U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman in pieces printed on these pages.

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This does not mean there are no reasons to be concerned.

We must stay vigilant.

Greene County Board of Elections Director Llyn McCoy told reporters this week that her office is about a week and a half behind on processing absentee ballot request forms and has received about 3,000 to 5,000 requests that have not yet made it in to the county’s system.

Last month, our reporters mailed 121 envelopes that were roughly the same size and weight of an absentee ballot from 42 public mailboxes in Montgomery, Greene, Warren and Miami counties.

Results were mixed. All of the envelopes made it back, but some were delayed well beyond postal service targets. Others arrived without postmarks.

There will undoubtedly be challenges come Election Day.

ExploreVOICES: Mail-in voting safe, despite what Trump says. Just ask Ohio’s Republican secretary of state

There is messiness even in years where the nation is not dealing with the effects of a pandemic.

The Miami County Board of Elections was placed on administrative oversight after county officials failed to count more than 6,000 votes in the November 2018 election. The oversight was removed in January.

Despite the obstacles, the right to vote and participate in the democratic process remains not only a right, but an obligation.

We urge you to vote, no matter how you determine is most appropriate: in person on Election Day, early at your board or elections, by drop off absentee ballot or by mail.

Make sure to give yourself enough time.

We also encourage you to consider being a poll worker. Many of those who typically would sign on to oversee the process are at higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract coronavirus.

With fewer than 50 days left until Election Day, LaRose says nearly 40,000 Ohioans have signed up to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 3. But more than 22,000 additional poll workers are needed. LaRose considers the act of working at the polls defending democracy and we have to agree.

As messy and imperfect as it can be, the right to vote was critical for those who fought for it in the past and remains critical even in these trying times.

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