2015 is here. That means the 2016 presidential election is on the horizon.

Few people in Ohio want to begin thinking about the 2016 election cycle, especially on the heels of a midterm election. Between the countless advertisements, back-and-forth arguments, and non-stop campaigning, election years can be tiresome. But the reality is that political parties, potential presidential candidates and their campaigns are thinking of you—and Ohio—right now.

Ohio’s Role in the Presidential Election

Ohio is often called the “bellwether state.” There only have been two elections over the last century in which Ohio voted for a presidential candidate who lost. It’s no surprise then that Ohio is often the fiercest battleground for the presidential election, and 2016 doesn’t look like it is going to be any different.

We already know that Cleveland is the host city for the 2016 Republican National Convention. However, we are still awaiting the announcement of the city that will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Finalists include Philadelphia, New York City, and Ohio’s own Columbus. Securing the RNC and making it to the final round for the DNC demonstrates an even greater importance about Ohio and its constituents.

How Can Being a Swing State Work for Ohioans?

As 2015 progresses, Ohioans need to keep in mind the power we will have over the 2016 presidential election. If presidential candidates want our votes—and they always do—then they must work for them. In other words, let us show the candidates, and all public office seekers, that we want a representative who understands our values and will hold him or her accountable.

The first step is knowing that public officials answer to you and me. This means that the work they do while in office is on the taxpayer’s dime.

Next is taking action by being an involved citizen. Whether you make public records requests, attend public meetings, contact your legislator, or exercise your right to peaceably protest or to vote, you are engaging in civic participation.

Read our previous blogs on the more recent Ohio protests, "Fallout from Ferguson: Takeaways from Two Ohio Protests," "Black Lives Matter: Marching on Washington," and "Survival Conversations."

The third step is sustaining the energy to demand accountability. If we are not vocal about a particular issue, then the public official does not know we need change. Furthermore, that public official may think we are not paying attention. Accountability must be a two-way street: the public demands and the official reacts.

The start of a New Year is a time for reflection and celebration. Let us do just that—reflect and celebrate—but keeping in mind that 2016 is going to be a big year for Ohio.

Happy New Year!

For more information about protesting peaceably, check out “Protestors: Know Your Rights!” and “What to Do if You're Stopped by the Police.”