Your vote is your voice so take the time to speak up, America
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@ gmail.com.