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In-Depth: Cleveland has low voter turnout. What can be done about it?

In-Depth: CLE low voter turnout, what can be done about it?
Posted at 10:28 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 09:16:37-04

CLEVELAND — Some Cleveland community leaders are wondering what more can be done to improve low Cleveland voter turnout posted in the Sept. 14 special primary election, which included the hotly contested Cleveland Mayor's race.

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reported only 16.2% of eligible voters cast their ballots, with Democrats Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley making it to the November election, with a vote of only 4.3% of all eligible voters for Bibb at 10,635 votes, and just 3% of all eligible voters for Kelley.

Pastor Aaron Phillips, Executive Director of the Cleveland Clergy Coalition told News 5 consistent voter education is needed, beyond just election season, to improve voter turnout. Phillips said voter education and civics needs to be mandated in the Cleveland schools.

“There’s a lot of apathy, people think that nothing is going to change, because we have seen the same old, same old," Phillips said. “We really need to educate our community on a regular basis.”

“We should make sure that every senior who is 18-years-old in the high schools are a registered voter. Also when you get your drivers license, that you’re registered to vote. Your vote matters not just in that election, but when it comes to where there is going to be economic and community development."

Erika Anthony, co-founder and advisor with Cleveland Votes told News 5 her agency has provided $200,000 in grants so far in 2021 to 25 organizations to get people to the polls in disfranchised and marginalized communities. Cleveland Votes is also promoting National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 28, an event that had her agency registering 21,000 Northeast Ohio residents last year alone.

Anthony said the ongoing pandemic continues to play a role in suppressing voter turnout

“It was an uphill battle, and I will say it continues to be an uphill battle," Anthony said. “In November is one of the most significant local elections for the City of Cleveland.”

“How can we better communicate to residents in our community who these different elections are, what do they mean, who are you voting for, what are the issues that are going to be appearing. We need to be able to translate the priorities of individuals in our community to how that shows up on the ballot.”

"The Cleveland Metropolitan School District and our schools, we know that unfortunately civics is no longer mandated in our schools, so that is an opportunity.”

"We also need to fight back against voter suppression and give everyone equal access, individuals who are challenged with accessing their polls due to transportation challenges, we have individuals with physical disabilities that are challenged with getting to their polls, and acknowledge some of the language barriers.”

In-Depth: CLE low voter turnout, what can be done about it?

Political Science Professor Thomas Sutton, with Baldwin Wallace University, told News 5 it's crucial for Cleveland residents to understand their vote does play a role in how millions of tax dollars will be distributed for years to come.

“This does matter, that if they care about the use of their tax dollars, and what those tax dollars are used for, they need to get organized," Sutton said. “If they care about the $541 million dollars the City of Cleveland is going to receive from the federal government and what’s going to be done with it, they must get out and vote."