Friday, October 12, 2001

Media campaign to exhort voters

State aims to boost turnout, volunteerism

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The state of Ohio plans an unprecedented media campaign to encourage registered voters to turn out on Election Day, Nov. 6.

        And when they arrive — at least in Hamilton County — they will be encouraged to “reinvest” in the community by volunteering with a civic organization.

        The plans were outlined Thursday at a news conference by Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell and Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune.

        Mr. Portune said voting and volunteering are the perfect responses to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

        “Citizens need to become re-engaged in their government as citizens,” Mr. Portune said. “Each of us is challenged today to do more than we ever have before.”

        Getting voters to vote is more of a challenge when there is no presidential race. Odd-year elections reached a high-water mark of 72 percent turnout in 1977 in Hamilton County and have been consistently lower ever since. Only 33 percent of registered voters cast ballots in 1999.

        Mr. Blackwell, the state's chief elections officer, said the terrorist attacks came after months of bickering over America's election process. He doesn't think that's an accident.

        Record numbers of voters on Election Day will send a message to terrorists that our system is stronger than ever, he said.

        The state will spend about $100,000 on television and radio spots, and rely heavily on corporate donations and free public service spots for the rest.

        Mr. Blackwell also said the state is producing a seven-minute video to educate voters.

        “We are a beacon of freedom,” Mr. Blackwell said. “It is more important than ever before that Americans exercise the franchise of voting. There can be no stronger homeland defense than showing up to vote.”

        Mike Barrett and Tim Burke, chairmen of the Republican and Democratic parties, respectively, both said the initiative is a nonpartisan effort.

        “It's real simple,” Mr. Barrett said. “Democracy should not be a spectator event.”


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