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Start prepping now for approaching election

Somehow, it already is election season again.

Of course, most astute readers already knew that, considering that our politics writer David Skolnick spent the last several months covering the ongoing legal debate over Ohio’s redistricting process that soon will come into play with this year’s congressional and state legislative races.

Along with coverage of redistricting, we also have been reporting for months now about the early efforts of many candidates hoping to take over the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Rob Portman.

Our local congressman, Tim Ryan, D-Howland, is strongly favored for the Democratic nomination. If that holds true in the May primary, Ryan would face off against the Republican nominee, chosen from a crowded field, and any other party or independent candidates still to be determined.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, is hoping to hold on to his seat in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District, and so far, Democrats are struggling to find a formidable challenger for the new district stretching from Trumbull County south to Washington County. It will lean 55.81 percent Republican to 41.83 percent Democrat.

Candidates hoping to run for Congress in Ohio will have until March 5 to file for the May 3 primary. That’s about a month later than the deadline for other races on the May 3 primary ballot, delayed due to the slow approval of the newly redrawn congressional district boundaries.

Along with those races, it now appears Democratic commissioners in both Trumbull and Mahoning counties also will face challengers this year. It’s still early, but so far, it appears challenges against longtime officeholders are being launched by well-known names in both counties.

Yes, the upcoming election season is shaping up to be very impactful for our Valley’s future.

Frankly, I’m thrilled to see competition, and I hope realistic challenges are laid out in all the races that will be decided before we know it. Competition within political parties and challenges among candidates representing two or more parties always help to raise the bar. Competition keeps incumbents on their toes and helps ensure accountability, wise spending of public money and good constituent service.

That’s why I believe this also is a perfect time to begin reminding voters of the importance of being involved in the election process. Too often residents don’t bother registering to vote, or if they are registered, they don’t bother casting a ballot, dismissing it as unimportant or doubting how impactful any one vote really can be.

Well, here’s a hint.

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose last month announced that November’s General Election resulted in 18 tied races or issues in Ohio that had to be determined by coin flip or by some similar method. Twelve of those 18 involved candidate races and six were on local issues. Tied candidate races are ultimately decided by a coin flip administered by the county board of elections; issue races resulting in a tie are defeated, as Ohio law requires a majority of affirmative votes for passage.

One of those tied issues, Sebring Village’s park and recreational 2-mill additional levy, occurred in Mahoning County. The levy failed after ending in a tie at 355.

“Any single, solitary voter would have made the difference in the outcome,” LaRose said.

He’s correct. Your vote may make a much bigger difference than you think. We like to do a lot of complaining about our government — social media makes it very easy to complain. But all that complaining means nothing if we don’t put our votes where our mouths are on election days.

That’s why I urge you to get registered soon. Get educated on the candidates and issues. You can do that simply by reading your local newspaper every day. Then, be ready to vote either early, by absentee ballot, by mail or in person on Election Day.

“Every Ohioan has the uniquely American ability to impact how we are all governed, and I encourage each eligible Ohioan to register to vote and participate in every election,” LaRose said recently. “These election results are proof positive that your vote matters.”

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