Senator Nina Turner wants to show her state and the country her leadership through the ballot box. The fiery and hands-on Ohio Democrat recently announced her candidacy for the position of Secretary of State, which would make her the Buckeyed state's chief elections officer.
The Secretary of State has the power of directive to set voter rights or restrictions, to investigate political campaigns and is the keeper of records and business activities in the state. If Turner wins, she will make history, becoming the first African-American Democrat to hold the seat.
A regular contributor to MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry and the Reid Report, the first-generation college graduate is known for her views on education and women’s rights (including fair pay and access to reproductive health services), but making sure everyone has the ability to vote is her true cause celébré.
Earlier this month, incumbent Secretary of State Jon Husted, set restrictions on early voting. No longer will voters have the opportunity to vote after work hours or on Sundays, which shuts out workers who can’t leave their jobs to cast a ballot. Twelve states have similar restrictions set, including Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania and Virginia. This is a tactic that reduces the number of working class and POC voters and one that the 46-year-old Cleveland native won't stand for.
Turner says that she’s not running for a political seat, but a cause. “It doesn’t matter to me who they want to vote for,” she says. “The democracy is better when more people exercise their right to vote.”
Ohio has historically set the tone for presidential elections since 1960, and it all begins with voter rights and turnout at the polls.
“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation,” Turner says, “and that’s why it’s important to have someone in theses office who is going to run that office in a fair way, that always sides with the voter regardless of their political affiliation.”
Turner also advocates for the vote itself, educating people on the negative impact of staying at home during “off-year” elections, insisting that there is no such thing as an unimportant vote.
“We’ve been so programmed in this country to get caught up in the glamour and the lights of what it means to come out and vote for a president,” she says, “but after that, we forget that there are other elections that will either make or break our progress as a nation.
A school board member, a judge, a township principal or mayor is just as important if not more important than electing a great president.”
Just as challenging as fighting for voter rights is connecting the dots between voter turnout and legislation for both voters and non-voters.
“Whatever people, in their everyday grind, feel they want to see different, that starts with electing the right types of people who understand that it is vitally important that government create pathways of opportunities, “she says,” and that we don’t leave any brother or sister behind. That happens through the ballot box.”
While voters are awaiting elections, there is still work that can be done and Turner is using social media to invite people to join her in the battlefield. Recently, she spoke at a rally at the Ohio Statehouse for workers protesting the new voting restrictions, using the hashtag, #TestimonyTuesday to chronicle the event. “I encourage you to find a cause or a person that they believe in and fight that cause or fight for that person."
Turner’s commitment to her work is informed largely by the strong history of African American political game changers. “If Fannie Louie didn’t feel sorry for herself, neither can I,” she says. “They went through things for you to be where you are today. It is the debt that we owe our ancestors.