Rec Voting

Kent State student Caris Kuhn provides information about Democratic candidates on behalf of the Ohio Democratic Party outside the KSU Wellness Center on Nov. 6, 2018.

The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing protests for racial justice, concern for how the economic recession will affect businesses, families, and communities, and the overwhelming amount of misinformation circulating online about everything from vaccines to voting already made 2020 a year unlike any other. 

Not surprisingly, people are stressed as they sort through unprecedented volumes of information (some of it intentionally misleading), worry about how to be safe and healthy, and pay the bills. 

Amidst this turbulent landscape, reliable information related to the 2020 presidential election has become increasingly urgent and important. In an effort to meet the information needs of Ohioans, more than 40 news organizations in the Your Voice Ohio media collaborative, including The Kent Stater, TV2 and KentWired, will work together over the next five months to provide relevant, important information regarding the 2020 presidential election.

Your Voice Ohio’s Election 2020 project will explore the complexity of the state’s nearly 12 million residents through community engagement, data analysis, and collaborative reporting. Media partners will engage the public to produce a series of stories focusing on the issues that matter most to Ohioans and present the platforms of Presidential candidates so that voters can determine whom they believe provides the best path forward for our country.

“Capturing the voices of young, college-age voters is especially important to our newsroom," said Maria McGinnis, summer editor of KentWired. "Being a member of the Your Voice Ohio collaborative will help us tap into this important demographic and share the ideas they think are the most crucial to their ability to make informed decisions as voters.”

Your Voice Ohio is seeking volunteers for as many as 20, two-hour deliberative engagement sessions to be held online from July through November. These conversations will help to ensure that electoral coverage produced by the collaborative is shaped directly by Ohio residents. Participants will be selected from the volunteers in an effort to best reflect state demographics and will be compensated $125 for participating in a single engagement session. To volunteer, visitYourVoiceOhio.org/election2020.

The first digital conversations and package of collaborative stories will focus on the 2020 presidential campaign and election. In addition to the engagement sessions with journalists, Your Voice Ohio also will sponsor a statewide poll, to be conducted in July by the the Center for Opinion and Marketing Research and co-authored with the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. Subsequent conversations and stories will focus on specific issues such as health care, the economy, or education, which will be identified and selected through polling and engagement. 

According to Kyle Bozentko, Executive Director of the Jefferson Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that coordinates Your Voice Ohio, media partners have successfully used deliberative civic engagement to produce innovative, community-centered coverage on issues such as the 2016 presidential election, opioids, addiction, and recovery, and the future of the economy. Previous community conversations sponsored by local news outlets showed a deep desire to rebuild relationships among people with different life experiences, to find common ground and work together to improve their communities. 

The issues Ohio residents wanted to address were affordable housing in every community, jobs with living wages and benefits, affordable and accessible health care, access to mental health services without a negative stigma, accessible and quality education, safe neighborhoods, access to fresh food, accessible public transportation and inviting places to live, with parks, recreation and the arts. Racial and economic equity were top of mind for Ohioans prior to this spring.

Building on what’s been learned from previous experience, Your Voice Ohio media partners are uniquely positioned to engage with Ohio residents and collaborate on their coverage of the upcoming election. “Local media outlets in Ohio are working together and being creative on behalf of their communities by inviting residents to play a fundamental role in shaping presidential election coverage and identifying the issues that matter most to them,” said Bozentko.

About the news media & YVO

Your Voice Ohio is the largest sustained, statewide media collaborative in the nation. Launched nearly five years ago, more than 60 news outlets have participated in unique, community-focused coverage of elections, addiction, racial equity, the economy and housing. Nearly 1,300 Ohioans have engaged with more than 100 journalists in dozens of urban, rural, and suburban communities across the state. Over and over again, Ohioans have helped journalists understand their perspectives and experiences while sharing ideas to strengthen their local communities and the state. The Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and Facebook are the primary funders of Your Voice Ohio. To learn more about Your Voice Ohio visitwww.yourvoiceohio.org. To learn more about the Jefferson Center visitwww.jefferson-center.org.

Doug Oplinger was a journalist at the Akron Beacon Journal for 46 years, leaving as managing editor in 2017 to manage and edit the media portion of the Your Voice Ohio project. The Jefferson Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in St. Paul with a 50-year history in community engagement and research, including the past eight years in work with the Beacon Journal and the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

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