COLUMBUS (WCMH) — This weekend, Ian Rhoades decided to change his protest strategy.
So, he put down his sign and picked up a clipboard.
“Just yesterday was my first time ever registering people to vote,” he said. “I just reached out to my friends and so this is a total grassroots effort. And we have about 12 people that we’ve got out there just asking for names and getting people to register.”
Rhoades and his friends weren’t alone.
Breanna Thompson also got a group together, and that was after she drove to the boards of elections in Franklin, Fairfield, and Licking counties to make sure she had paperwork for a number of areas.
“So if they came down here, I wanted them to feel included, that they could register on the spot,” she explained. “I started to think about what’s the next step? And what can I do to motivate people and I thought of registering people to vote.”
Rhoades and Thompson’s groups combined to register close to 200 people on Saturday alone. They hope they are giving people a purpose months before the general election and also educating them on why their voter registration may have lapsed.
“So if you have moved since you last voted, you need to re-register your address. If you haven’t voted in the last four years, you need to re-register your address. If you’ve changed your name, you need to re-register,” Rhoades explained. “That’s how we’re really going to make a difference in November and we’ve got to make our voices heard at the ballot box just as loud as they’re being heard here at the statehouse.”
Some of those voices are just starting to ring out. As 18-year-old Paige Freeman marched towards the Ohio statehouse on Sunday, her mother, Tracy, saw Rhoades’s registration set up and encouraged her daughter to become a first-time registered voter.
“When I was in school, our social studies teachers always said, ‘Register to vote,’ and I wasn’t 18, so when school got out, I didn’t have the chance when I turned 18 to register at school, so I’ve been meaning to do it and I had the opportunity today,” Paige said with a smile. “I believe it doesn’t matter what age you are, any age, and when you turn 18, you have the pleasure to be able to vote. And hearing some of my friends say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ just makes it matter more to me.”
“I mean the young people, that’s our hope. That’s our hope,” Tracy added. “I’m so proud of my daughter and my sons for speaking out and being a part of this. They are the change that we need. They are the change.”
“A lot of state decisions are decided by a couple hundred to a thousand votes,” Thompson explained. “That’s why it’s so important to get registered and go to the polls in November, because the local elections are actually what impacts what happens to us day to day. I mean, we see what happens on a national level, but again, we want to impact those local decisions as well.”