League seeks more active electorate

Adam Milasincic

Women voters group begin plans at town hall meeting

Hillary Lovell, junior political science major, and Nancy Grimm discuss voting machines at last night’s League of Women Voters of Kent Town Hall meeting. Lovell, who is a founding member of the Kent Political Union, helped organize the event as part of he

Credit: Steve Schirra

With the ink just dry on last week’s ballots, a group of Kent political activists began talks last night with an eye toward assuring openness and accountability in Ohio’s next election.

The League of Women Voters of Kent hosted a town hall meeting to consider new approaches to voter registration and the “sunshine laws” that govern public access to government records. About 95 people, including five student members of the Kent State Political Union, joined those discussions at the United Methodist Church on state Route 59.

“Polls and studies document the dissatisfaction with the way things are going — or not going — in Ohio, but people still don’t show up to vote,” said Barb Hipsman, the league’s co-president and Kent State associate professor of journalism. “Tonight is just the first step. Our common goal is to help everyone get educated and get involved on the issues facing us today.”

The event served as a local kickoff for the League of Women Voters’ statewide “imPACT” campaign that seeks to boost citizen participation in government.

Yesterday’s workshop sessions solicited audience opinions on the accessibility of public officials and the integrity of state election procedures, especially new voting machines and identification requirements.

Stephen Dunwoody, a senior political science major, said he found voting on Portage County’s touch-screen machines to be “very simple.” He said the most important step voters can take is to stop assuming the officials they vote for are always acting in the public interest.

“I think it’s incumbent on we who elected them to open the door and peek in on them from time to time,” Dunwoody said. “The problem is we often don’t have the time.”

Participants in last night’s event offered several suggestions for enhancing accountability and said Internet resources should be adapted to offer new windows into government decision making.

“In terms of accountability, I don’t think our elected officials are accountable to the voters at all,” said Susan Vogelsang, a league member from Akron. “I think they are responsive to the lobbyists and the people who make the big contributions.”

Other discussion points included moving Election Day to the weekend (or establishing it as a federal holiday), automatically registering 18-year-olds to vote and relaxing the restrictions that complicate voting by ex-felons. Sophomore political science major Hillary Lovell also proposed allowing new voters to register on Election Day, as is permitted in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Contact public affairs reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected].