Heights voters make me proud

I recently used this column to beseech readers not to sit out the Aug. 8 special election. Proponents of Issue 1, a constitutional amendment that would have made it more difficult to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot and then to pass it, hoped to sneak the noxious initiative through during a low-turnout summer election.

Cleveland Heights and University Heights voters, and others across the state, went to the polls in large numbers and defeated a bad idea. Nearly 19,000 Heights residents cast ballots.

I can’t resist data. The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website reports turnout numbers and the percentage of yes and no votes for every precinct. My dive into the data gave me a wonderful lift. Voters in the Heights came through big time and showed what democracy-loving towns we are.

At 38 percent, turnout in Cuyahoga County was considered strong. Slightly more than 44 percent turned out in both Cleveland Heights and University Heights. The turnout rate by precinct ranged from 27 to 69 percent. Participation rates in 26 of the cities’ 42 precincts (there are 33 in CH and nine in UH) were in excess of 38 percent, and in 13 of those 26 the rates exceeded 50 percent. This is a good record, but it points to the ongoing issue of differences in engagement. We need high levels everywhere.

Vote-wise, our cities outdid Cuyahoga County as a whole and made a significant contribution to the no vote. Statewide, 57 percent of voters said no, as did 74 percent in Cuyahoga County. In Cleveland Heights and University Heights, the percentages were 91.3 and 81.5, respectively, and 89.3 combined. In nine precincts in the Heights, more than 95 percent voted against Issue 1.

For me, a true believer in democracy, the victory at the ballot box was twofold. People participated, and they used their vote to protect their right to seek solutions when lawmakers don’t represent their interests.

Despite this win, the day was also a wake-up call for me. Being registered to vote is not enough! The state’s new voter-identification law means that some registered voters turned up to vote and were denied because they lacked proper identification.

Two of the five voters I was shepherding on Aug. 8—one elderly and one young—do not drive. The alarm went off as I drove my elderly friend to the Community Center to vote after she missed the deadline to vote absentee. She does not have a valid identification card.

I am now on a new rampage. The next election is in November, and participation will be as important as it was in August. Voters have until Oct. 10 to register or update their voting address, but don’t stop there! Please spread the word: If you want to vote in person in November, you must have proper identification. People who don’t have a driver’s license can get a free state ID card at the local Department of Motor Vehicles office on South Taylor Road. Visit the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections website (https://boe.cuyahogacounty.gov/) for details on the documents you can use to prove your name, birthday, home address and social security number.

It’s a hassle, but please help spread the word so the voters you know are not surprised when they try to vote in the future. The elderly and the young are among those most likely to be left out without proper identification.

Democracy depends on us. We have to be vigilant and determined. I appreciate that our community is both.

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 9, Posted 11:47 AM, 09.02.2023