Daily Press (Sunday)

Let your voice be heard Tuesday by voting

- By Phillip Jones Phillip Jones is the mayor of Newport News.

I have the immense honor of serving as the 27th mayor of the city of Newport News. I grew up being told, “To whom much is given, much is required.” We must not forget what was given to us so we could vote and have our voices heard.

I do not take it lightly that, until the 15th Amendment was passed in 1869, people who looked like me were not allowed to vote. However, would-be voters faced discrimina­tory measures discouragi­ng them from exercising that right until the 24th Amendment in 1964, which eliminated the poll tax, and the Voting Rights

Act of 1965, which ended Jim Crow laws. Women were denied the right to vote until 1920, when the women’s suffrage movement finally resulted in the 19th Amendment. It took many years of marching, protesting and fighting for everyone to have the right to vote.

Those we elect are charged with providing a voice for speaking on our behalf. I am proud of how, in Newport News, we strive to ensure residents are part of the City Council’s decision-making process. We listen to citizens who speak at public hearings, make calls or send emails and letters. To me, this demonstrat­es the importance of each constituen­t’s voice. You are electing those who should listen, advocate and do the work.

As mayor, I have met with residents of all ages to discuss issues affecting our city and ideas for the future. In each discussion, I stress the importance of collaborat­ion; for sustainabl­e and transforma­tional change to occur, we must all work together and be part of the process. The first step is ensuring your voice is heard.

I know it may seem inconvenie­nt to vote. It takes time to learn about candidates, stand in potentiall­y long lines, or take time off work. Your vote is essential, though, to look past these minor inconvenie­nces.

The Newport News Voter Registrar’s Office has implemente­d innovative strategies to ensure city residents can easily cast a ballot. Informatio­n is available on nnva.gov.

Voting begins at age 18, and I implore our young people to become part of the process. Decisions being made today affect tomorrow. I like to think of it in the context that when we show up to vote, we are writing history.

While the deadline to register to vote in the 2023 Election has passed, you can still register and vote using a provisiona­l ballot with same-day registrati­on, which is available on Election Day. Nothing should prevent citizens who are at least 18 years old from voting in this year’s election. You can learn all about this at elections.virginia. gov.

It’s also not too early to start thinking about the 2024 election. If you will be at least 18 years old at the time of the next general election (Nov. 5, 2024), are a resident of Virginia, a U.S. citizen, and meet other criteria, please register to vote now. The 2024 election is a presidenti­al election, making it a pivotal year for our nation.

As a youngster, the voting process began for my family before Election Day. I remember sitting at our dining room table, listening to my parents discuss candidates and issues. These discussion­s sparked my passion for the democratic process. Then, I would accompany my parents to their voting precinct. It didn’t matter if they were voting in city, midterm, gubernator­ial or presidenti­al elections; my mom and dad always had the same enthusiasm when casting their ballots.

I still wake up hopeful and inspired on Election Day. The 2022 election will probably always be my favorite; it is hard to describe how it felt to see my name on the ballot for the first time. But my passion for the electoral process remains the same, regardless of who is on the ticket.

I’m not telling you who to vote for; I’m simply asking you to vote. It sounds cliché, but every voice truly does matter. Voting is your chance to stand up for the issues you care about and advocate for the life you want for yourself, your family, and our community. Not voting is giving up your voice, and you deserve to be heard.

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