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‘Despair is not a strategy’: King library hosts action for democracy

On Wed., Oct. 25, Miami University’s King Library hosted Action for Democracy, an event co-sponsored by the Howe Center for Writing Excellence (HWCE) and the League of Women Voters (LWV) of Oxford.

The event was staffed by student and community volunteers and set up into seven stations: voting, what’s on the ballot, calling elected officials, getting involved, giving testimony, writing op-eds and redistricting. Attendees were each given a democracy action checklist, and after visiting five of the seven stations, they were entered into a raffle to win an iPad.

Elizabeth Wardle serves as director of the HWCE and is the co-president for Oxford’s chapter of LWV. She said Action for Democracy was first held last April in response to the passing of Ohio House Bill 458 and because of the proposition of Senate Bill 83 in March 2023.

“It's much harder now to vote early. There's a much more compressed timeframe, and so we were just really concerned that students would not know that,” Wardle said. “The two issues that are on the ballot right now, whatever your stance may be, we figured students really care about. If they don't know about the voter ID laws, they're gonna get there and not be able to vote.”

Wardle said Action for Democracy’s goal is to encourage students to learn about democracy and stay engaged beyond the event.

Stations at the event informed students on voter ID laws, current issues on the ballot and gerrymandering in Ohio.

“We’re explaining what the maps look like and how you can actually get involved,” Wardle said. “Right now, citizens are about to actively collect signatures to have a say in the redrawing of the maps and so that a ballot initiative soon to start.”

Photo by Laura Giaquinto | The Miami Student
The event had seven stations, including how to call your legislators and how to write testimony.

Senior political science and business analytics major Cameron Tiefenthaler is a member of the LWV and informed event attendees about issues on this November’s ballot.

“We are here in part tonight to make sure that regardless of how students and community members feel that they are educated about what voting means, what voting [doesn’t] mean and what they're actually voting on,” Tiefenthaler said. “Because that's so important, we don't want people to make decisions based on misinformation.”

Tiefenthaler said there is lots of misleading information surrounding Issue 1, the amendment to protect reproductive rights.

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According to the Ohio legislative record, abortion is illegal after six weeks, because of the heartbeat law scheduled to go into effect when Roe v. Wade was overturned. This inaccurately reflects that abortions in Ohio can be legally performed up to 21 weeks. 

“The 21-week protection for abortion access is being held up by the court system that can be overturned at any point,” Tiefenthaler said. “So passing Issue 1 would put into the Ohio State Constitution protections from Roe v. Wade with the 21 week abortion protection.”

Oxford City Councilor Amber Franklin attended the event and was pleased it provided non-partisan information about Issue 1 and Issue 2, which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana for Ohio residents over the age of 21.

“What I love about this is it's nonpartisan, it's educational. People can vote [with] their conscience,” Franklin said. “But this is making sure that everyone has accurate nonpartisan information.”

Lisa Herrmann and Dana Miller are members of LWV and are on the committee for redistricting. They are part of the effort to collect signatures for new voter maps on the Ohio ballot.

Herrmann and Miller informed attendees on what the new maps in this initiative would look like in Ohio and what fair voter maps look like and why they matter.

“If you don't have fair maps, you might feel like your vote doesn't count and then you wouldn't even bother voting,” Herrmann said. “Democracy won't work if we don't have voting, so if you feel that it is fairly represented, then you're more likely to go out.”

Miller said that fair maps are the most fundamental element of democracy.

“We don't want politicians selecting their voters,” Miller said. “We want us to select our politicians.”

Jessica Johnson, a sophomore psychology major, attended Action for Democracy looking to get more involved in advocating for democracy on campus and said she learned a lot from the op-ed station.

“I didn't actually know really what an op-ed was until I went over there, and she really explained what that is and how you go about doing one and what it entails,” Johnson said. “And I found that very interesting.”

Johnson said she typically votes in every election and plans to use what she learned to become a more informed voter.

Photo by Laura Giaquinto | The Miami Student
Action for Democracy’s goal is to encourage students to learn about democracy and stay engaged beyond the event.

Junior Patrick Houlihan is Miami’s Associated Student Government’s secretary for governmental relations and has experience writing testimonies regarding Ohio bills, which he  shared at the event.

“Every bill has to go through a public comment process,” Houlihan said. “They have opportunities for every Ohioan to go and either submit written testimony or speak and testify in-person.”

Houlihan says testimonies are a great way to voice your opinion particularly on smaller local issues.

“You can write as little as ‘I love this bill,’ or ‘I hate this bill,’” Houlihan said. “It's really up to you, and it's just a really neat way to make your voice heard on specific topics that aren't exactly like the big social topics.”

Wardle says she believes Gen Z is active and aware of issues going on around them. She hopes more students will recognize many things occurring today are dangerous to democracy and jump into action.

“Despair is not a strategy. You can be upset, but then you need to actually do something,” Wardle said. “We're trying to make it really easy to say, ‘You can join the League of Women Voters or you can be a poll worker.’ There's a lot of ways that you can get involved with democracy right here.”