Press Release

Local Voter Advocacy Groups Use Dynamic Tactics to Reach Thousands of Voters in Advance of Ohio’s Primary Election

MJ Eckhouse, April 29, 2020

Cleveland, OH — From distributing vote-by-mail applications to essential community places and texting with eligible Ohio voters, to hosting creative engagement events online, over the phone, and in the community (practicing appropriate physical distancing requirements), local voter advocacy groups reached tens of thousands of voters in advance of Ohio’s April 28 primary election. 

When the groups received notice on March 27 that Ohio’s primary election was shifting to an all vote-by-mail process, they quickly and creatively mobilized to reach eligible voters who had not yet cast their ballots. The efforts were led by groups including Cleveland VOTES, All Voting is Local, League of Women Voters – Cleveland,  NAACP – Cleveland Branch and the Ohio Environmental Council – Cleveland Office, with support from and in support of many community organizations.

“Because the expedited vote-by-mail process was novel to millions of voters in our state, we knew we needed to take a novel approach to our outreach efforts,” said Devonta Dickey, Advocacy and Engagement Coordinator for Cleveland VOTES.  “These experiences have reminded us of the need to be nimble, flexible and willing to prototype dynamic ideas to emphasize the voting process and our democracy.”

Examples of some of the dynamic ideas include:

  • All Voting is Local, Cleveland VOTES and NAACP-Cleveland hosted a tele-townhall moderated by local radio personality Sam Sylk of 93.1 WZAK reaching more than 11,000 voters on Wednesday, April 15.
  • Cleveland VOTES and the Young Latino Network coordinated ¡La Caravana de la Democracia!, a mobile effort that informed residents in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton and Tremont neighborhoods of the vote-by-mail process. A caravan of multiple vehicles, including Cleveland City Councilmembers Kerry McCormack and Jasmin Santana, canvassed the neighborhoods on Saturday, April 18, with a voting message broadcast in both Spanish and English. Vote-by-mail applications were made available to residents. 
  • Partners hosted a Vote by Mail Application Drive in Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood on Saturday, April 25. Attendees received a hot breakfast courtesy of Pearl Flower Catering. They also received a free washable facemask as part of a community-wide effort to provide under-resourced communities with pertinent information about COVID-19. The event was hosted by NAACP-Cleveland and Church in the Circle with support from Cleveland VOTES, Dru Christine Fabrics & Design, Ortiz Art Drafts Designs LLC, Pearl Flower Catering, ThirdSpace Action Lab, and the Trust for Public Land. 
  • Cleveland VOTES staff members and League of Women Voters – Greater Cleveland volunteers distributed more than 8,300 vote-by-mail applications to over 30 regional grocery stores, community resource centers and food distribution locations across Cleveland. Groups like MidTown Cleveland, Inc. and  Smart Development, Inc.  helped with this effort by working with minority-owned grocery stores and food businesses that are open for carry-out and delivery options to include vote-by-mail applications to individuals who did not have access to print one at home. When asked about this work, Samira Malone of MidTown Cleveland said, “We are committed to a transparent democratic process. We believe an increase of equitable access to voting builds political power and confirms public policy priorities that benefit and impact us all.”
  • Partners texted more than 58,100 Cuyahoga County voters with messages about the vote-by-mail process and reminders to vote through April 27.
  • Partners hosted a number of online conversations including Breaking Down the Ballot, Turn Up Tuesday, Celebrating Earth Day and Democracy, and many more. 
  • Cleveland VOTES leveraged a hotline for VBM related information. They also worked with partners to translate voter guides and other pertinent election material from English to Spanish and Arabic.  When asked about this work, Melaak Rashid of Smart Growth Inc. said, “We remain extremely dedicated and committed to ensuring all residents of all walks of life, backgrounds, and especially residents whose native language is not English don’t feel discouraged, but empowered to be heard and know their vote matters.”

“Teamwork and alignment were critical in successfully getting out the vote, but it is clear that we need to improve the integrity, security and accessibility of our election system,” said Karlton Laster, Cleveland Metro Director with Ohio Environmental Council. “We heard stories from voters across the Greater Cleveland area who experienced longer than usual wait times to receive their ballots and inaccuracies with the ballot tracking service, as well as voters who received different primary ballots than they had requested. These stories amplify the need for action to protect voter rights.” 

Many of the local voter advocacy groups  have joined the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition in calling for a number of permanent reforms. “We remain committed to working alongside our partners to ensure all Ohioans have safe and secure access to their ballot,  and we call on our elected officials to act now so that Ohio voters are never put in this position again,” said Mike Brickner,  All Voting is Local’s Ohio State Director. 

Community organizations involved in the efforts above include: Burten, Bell, Carr Development Inc., Cudell Improvement, Inc., Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation, Greater Collinwood Development Corporation, MidTown Cleveland Inc.Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation, Policy Matters Ohio, Slavic Village Development, Smart Development Inc., Tremont West Development Corporation, and the Young Latino Network.

All Voting is Local fights to eliminate needless and discriminatory barriers to voting before they happen, to build a democracy that works for us all. In Ohio, All Voting is Local is working with partners to build an election system that is accurate, fair, and accessible to all. Learn more:

Cleveland VOTES is a nonpartisan democracy building and mobilization entity that aims to strengthen civic muscle and power to ensure we have a more informed, participatory and cohesive community. Learn more:

The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. The League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland serves voters in Cuyahoga County and has eleven chapters to serve local municipalities. Learn more:

Chartered in Cleveland in 1912, the Cleveland Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is a branch of the National Association. Founded in 1909, the NAACP is a membership based civil rights organization. The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. Learn more:   

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) develops and ensures the implementation of forward-thinking, science-based, pragmatic solutions to secure healthy air, land and water, as well as a strong democracy, for all who call Ohio home. The OEC Cleveland team is proud to work alongside voter advocacy groups in Cleveland to build a healthier democracy and, in turn, secure a healthier environment for the region. Learn more: