Above: Voting booths in Cleveland Heights by Tim Evanson on Flickr.
Inflammatory rhetoric, political posturing, trivial sound bites. It must be election season again in Ohio.
It’s no surprise that campaigns tend to produce more heat than light; choosing to drive people apart instead of focusing on our shared goals seems to work for them. But it’s not working for our democracy. In most elections, the vast majority of the electorate doesn’t show up to vote, including in the recent presidential primaries. The numbers will look better in November, but even then, likely a third of eligible voters will sit it out.
When the majority of Americans are this frustrated with our election process, it’s time to try something new. That’s why we’re excited to announce “Informed Citizen Akron,” a collaboration between the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at The University of Akron, the Jefferson Center, and a consortium of Ohio media organizations led by the Akron Beacon Journal. Informed Citizen Akron will provide Ohio voters with high-quality coverage of the presidential election based on the priorities of Ohioans.
Our aim is to create a narrative for the election that focuses on the issues that matter most to Akron and Ohio residents. To do that, we have to put voters first. That means listening to people and engaging Ohioans directly to tell media what they need to know.
From now until Election Day, we’ll focus on three things:
1. What are the issues that really matter to voters?
2. What are the candidate’s substantive stances on those issues?
3. How can local and state media help drive a more productive public conversation about the election that informs and encourages voters?
To do that, our team at the Bliss Institute will conduct three in-depth polls statewide to assess Ohioans’ attitudes toward the campaigns and media coverage of the election. At the Jefferson Center we will engage citizens to learn about how media covers elections, and to learn and talk about the issues, the candidates, and the ways Ohio media can better cover the election so that voters can make more informed decisions at the polls. Media outlets throughout Ohio will use the feedback generated through polling and public conversations to shift their coverage beyond the horse race and provide information that resonates with voters and improves the public discourse about the election.
We can have a more informative, more engaging discussion of the issues facing our state, our country, and our communities. We hope you’ll join us.
For more, send a message to Informed Citizen Akron or sign up for regular emails at jefferson-center.org/ic-akron.