Your right to vote is under attack. Staying home on election day is exactly what the people in power want you to do. The very nature of Democracy is under siege. Our politicians only answer to a wealthy few and the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves and it’s not good enough.
Why is it that year after year, election after election, the only people who vote are the ones that are angry enough to care? And why aren’t you angry enough?
You can vent on facebook, twitter and Instagram. You can chant on marches, carry clever signs and offer thoughts and prayers but it’s not enough.
We are at a delicate moment in the history of our country. Our elected officials are typically voted in by one-quarter of eligible voters and even then by the slimmest of margins. The fifty percent of voters that don’t vote think they are voting against the system, against the incumbents, against the past. But they are kidding themselves. If you want change, don’t leave it up to others to make the decision for you, they won’t. If you want to see new ideas and new paths you have be angry enough to work for it. The only thing that matters is change. If you want change for the better, if you want change at all, it’s up to you to go out and get it.
Voting is easy. If you need a ride, you can get it. If you need a baby sitter, you can get it. If you don’t know where to go, just ask. In 2016, 102 million people didn’t vote. Donald Trump got a total of 63 million votes.
But the people in power don’t want you to vote. Keeping people from voting is as American as apple pie. It took a civil war, a suffragette movement and an act Congress just to get the right to vote for African-Americans and women. So how do you hold onto power? Easy. You make it harder, or impossible, for those people to vote. This suppression of the voices of change is the centerpiece of the Republican Party’s 2020 strategy. They systematically eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early-voting hours and Sunday voting.
These laws may not be as blatant as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the Jim Crow 1800’s but they are just as real in the 21st century.
Frustration is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But if people don’t vote, elections will be decided by smaller and smaller groups of voters. The ones that are angry enough to care will be the ones that determine who runs our country.
The most important way to fix this is to make it easier for people to register and to vote. Automatic voter registration, mail-in ballots and expanding voting times are solutions that voter rights advocates have been fighting over for decades. North Carolina has closed polling places in some areas and changed early-voting hours. Early-voting lines can stretch for hours. These changes partially explain the almost 9-percent decline (more than 65,000 voters) in African-American early voters. In North Carolina, a local party chairman emailed election officials to remind them that limited early voting was “in the best interest of the Republican Party.”
The good news for young people, African-Americans and other targeted populations is that there’s a simple defense against lawmakers who are okay with preventing you from exercising your right to vote. Vote them out. While you still can.
Fortunately, this strategy only matters in close elections. But that should make you very nervous. A lot of North Carolina elections are extremely close. In 2016 the average margin of victory for US Senate, Governor, Lt Governor and Attorney General was about 3%. The 2018 races for the State General Assembly are expected to go down to the wire.
The Declaration of Independence says Governments get their “powers from the consent of the governed.” The casting of a ballot is the most effective way for us to communicate our consent to the leaders we have chosen and to offer our consent to new leaders we believe in.