Only you can protect direct democracy: Vote on Aug. 8

Can Cleveland Heights and University Heights withstand the shift in culture and values—and the outright rejection of democratic principles—supported by state lawmakers who are determined to re-impose pre-Civil War thinking on our lives?

I am not exaggerating here. I am a law-abiding citizen, but what do you do when lawmakers reject the Constitution by making publicly funded religious education an entitlement and ignore the desired outcome of higher education?

It’s terrifying to see the overreach by state government into the operation of local institutions and the private lives of residents. Republican legislators have long been the opponents of big government, but they are now using their elected positions and unchecked power as a hammer to determine what’s allowed in environments where it’s none of their business.

I believe government is essential to solving big problems. Government should be a tool to meet the needs of society. It is a resource for the common good. But Ohio lawmakers have focused more on social control and enriching the lives of the wealthy than making people’s lives better. 

Our community has a tradition of resisting bad policy, and resistance is a key part of the democratic tradition. That’s how our residents created housing integration in an era when discrimination was the norm. Our educators and school [administrators] have been leaders in searching for equity, valuing diversity, encouraging critical thinking and nurturing the whole child. They want our schools to be safe places for all students. We have to back them in supporting our community’s values and contradicting the views of the supermajority in the statehouse.

We cannot disengage from the electoral process. Staying home can feel logical in this moment of unresponsive supermajority rule, but it will only punish those who care.

The most important thing we can do to protect our values and check the oversized power of our lawmakers is to vote in the Aug. 8 special election. There is one item on the ballot: Issue 1, which, if passed, would change the rules for ballot initiatives in ways that would make it nearly impossible for citizens to bring them about.

Ballot initiatives are direct democracy. They allow voters to directly shape laws and circumvent the legislature. The August ballot item put forth by state lawmakers is the ultimate power grab by the supermajority. It’s the latest in legislators’ desire to thwart the will of the people.

Most Cleveland Heights voters—about 20,000—are Independents, followed by about 12,900 Democrats and 1,300 Republicans. Voter turnout in last November’s general election was just over 51 percent, but only 28 percent of Independents turned out. Voters affiliated with a party are much more likely to vote, but defeating Issue 1 will require participation from everyone.

Special elections in August are notorious for low turnout. That’s why advocates for this policy to limit direct democracy passed a bill to reinstate special summer elections. They are counting on you not to participate.

Don’t stay home. Your vote against this issue is your chance to protect your power to shape our state and our community. Resistance starts by outfoxing them!

You can vote in person on Aug. 8 or apply now for an absentee ballot. Your vote can change the trajectory of our democracy!

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser moved to Cleveland Heights in 1979. She is the former director of Reaching Heights, and is active with the Heights Coalition for Public Education and the League of Women Voters. A community booster, she is the author of a book about local activism, Resisting Segregation.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 4:40 PM, 06.29.2023