Your vote is your voice so take the time to speak up, Amer­ica

The Commercial Appeal - - Viewpoint - Pol­i­tics Mem­phis Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

The Nov. 6 midterm elec­tion is fast ap­proach­ing. The is­sues are im­por­tant, the rhetoric mis­lead­ing and the can­di­dates di­verse. Do you know where your vote will be?

Re­gard­less of your po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion, and re­gard­less of whether you are black, white, His­panic, Asian or of some other race or cul­ture, it is im­per­a­tive that you vote. It re­ally should be the law of the land. Yes, not vot­ing should be un­law­ful. Un­for­tu­nately, it is not.

Vot­ing is our voice. It is the way we let those in the state­house, the houses of Con­gress and the White House know what is on our minds. It is how we let our lead­ers know that we are pleased with what they are do­ing on our be­half, or that we are not happy at all.

So many com­plain about what politi­cians are do­ing – or not do­ing. It’s a sure bet that some of the com­plain­ers didn’t vote in the last elec­tion. If you don’t vote, you have no right to com­plain.

Many peo­ple are in a protest mood right now. In Wash­ing­ton, some marched in sup­port of Judge Brett Ka­vanaugh be­ing con­firmed to the Supreme Court, while oth­ers protested against his con­fir­ma­tion. In re­cent months and years, there have been protests against gun vi­o­lence and sex­ual as­saults, and protests for women’s rights. I won­der how many of those pro­test­ers ac­tu­ally vote.

Shortly af­ter my 18th birth­day, I regis­tered to vote. When the next elec­tion came around, I voted. It was my duty, and I took it se­ri­ously.

My fa­ther was very civic-minded and knew most of the elected of­fi­cials in Bo­li­var and Harde­man County. They knew him as well. He didn’t hes­i­tate to ask ques­tions, or to dis­agree if he didn’t like what was said.

Dur­ing most of Dad’s vot­ing life, those politi­cians were white (he was African-Amer­i­can, of course), but that didn’t stop him from ask­ing and dis­cussing is­sues. Af­ter he re­tired from work­ing at a tan­nery, he started work­ing at the polls at elec­tion time. I was proud of him for his com­mu­nity ser­vice.

His com­mit­ment to vot­ing em­anated from grow­ing up in the South when voter sup­pres­sion kept blacks from vot­ing. He knew first­hand or heard about peo­ple be­ing beaten, killed or hung from trees to keep them and other blacks from go­ing to the polls. He also ex­pe­ri­enced be­ing turned away from the polls af­ter be­ing told he was not regis­tered when he knew that he was.

That pas­sion for vot­ing, for car­ry­ing out that ba­sic Amer­i­can re­spon­si­bil­ity, was passed on to my si­b­lings and me. Af­ter I moved to Chicago, my fa­ther of­ten asked if I voted. When there was an im­por­tant na­tional elec­tion com­ing up, he’d even ask for whom I was vot­ing. We did not al­ways agree, but we both voted.

Over the years I’ve been dis­mayed by peo­ple who said they were not regis­tered or didn’t vote be­cause they felt that their sin­gle vote didn’t mat­ter. Oth­ers said they didn’t vote be­cause they didn’t have time or in­ter­est in the is­sues. That’s ridicu­lous.

Do you care whether your chil­dren’s school is ad­e­quately funded, or that the school is safe? Then vote for the can­di­dates you feel will pro­vide the best ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties and en­vi­ron­ment for your chil­dren.

Surely you care about jobs, es­pe­cially your job. What about racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion on the job? How about equal op­por­tu­ni­ties for women in the job mar­ket? Which of the can­di­dates run­ning for of­fice will look out for your best in­ter­ests?

Some politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton and Nashville want to throw out laws sup­port­ing vot­ing rights and worker rights, and weaken laws against po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence buy­ing. Are you OK with that? If not, you should vote.

Are you con­cerned about your sav­ings and re­tire­ment? In­creas­ing prices

for med­i­ca­tions? Health care and the Af­ford­able Care Act? Are th­ese im­por­tant is­sues for you and your fam­ily? The peo­ple be­ing elected to Con­gress will have a great im­pact on th­ese is­sues in the com­ing months and years. You should have a voice in th­ese mat­ters.

Ac­cord­ing to the AARP, some elected of­fi­cials have pro­posed cut­ting So­cial Se­cu­rity to re­duce the deficit. And there could be dras­tic changes to So­cial Se­cu­rity cost-of-liv­ing ad­just­ments. Does this sit well with you? Might this af­fect you or your par­ents and other rel­a­tives? You need to vote, and they need to vote, too.

Voter par­tic­i­pa­tion in the 2014 midterm elec­tion was em­bar­rass­ingly low. It is es­ti­mated that 140 mil­lion peo­ple did not vote. Ac­cord­ing to the United States Elec­tion Pro­ject, lit­tle more than one third of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers na­tion­wide par­tic­i­pated. It was the low­est turnout since 1942.

In Ten­nessee, only 29.1 per­cent of vot­ers showed up for the 2014 elec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­sus, only 16 per­cent of U.S. cit­i­zens be­tween ages 18 and 24 voted.

That was shame­ful and we can­not let that hap­pen again. Abra­ham Lin­coln said, “The bal­lot is stronger than the bul­let.” Let’s help prove that he was right.

Lynn Nor­ment is a Mem­phis jour­nal­ist who pre­vi­ously was an ed­i­tor and se­nior writer for Ebony mag­a­zine. She can be reached at nor­ment­media@

Lynn Nor­ment Colum­nist

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