Voting is not just our right; it’s our job

My wife tells the story about a debate she witnessed my father-in-law having with a gentleman at a paint store concerning politics.

The conversation was very lively to say the least. It ended with my father-in-law saying, “Oh, man! You didn’t vote? Then, you can’t tell me *@%!” He then continued his shopping.

Now the man who didn’t vote could find my father-in-law’s tone and choice of metaphor disagreeable, but the truth of the statement is irrefutable. As a citizen in a democracy, voting is your job. Failure to do that job hurts individuals, communities and our country.

The sad fact that eligible voters who don’t vote sometimes outnumber those who do means that a smaller fraction of the country gets to decide what is best for all of us. Government by the people, for the people, cannot exist if the people don’t go to the polls.

With voting being so vital I’ve often wondered why people don’t take part in the process. Over the years I’ve found the reasons vary, by individual, community, class or race. There does seem to be a common denominator though, from which most of the reasons I’ve heard spring.

It is the idea that voting doesn’t matter because the system is rigged.

These non-voters say both parties take millions from corporations. Politicians aren’t listening to people. They’re listening to the corporations that write big checks. There is truth in that and since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Ruling, money in politics has gotten worse. But, at the end of the day, congressmen and women who listen to corporations over constituents are voted on. Supreme Court justices are nominated and appointed by a president and a Congress that is also voted on.

Politicians may not care about you one bit, but they do care about your vote. Don’t think so? Then explain to me why our Republican legislature still can’t come up with an electoral map that can pass a judicial smell test. If votes didn’t matter, it wouldn’t be that hard to draw an equitable map.

The election of Barack Obama shocked America in many ways. One major way was it showed the power of the African-American vote. African Americans came out in numbers not previously seen in a presidential election.

Since that day, we’ve seen Voter I.D. laws proposed, one of which is shamefully on the ballot in our state; the number of days for early voting cut;and people purged from voting rolls.

These measures are not being proposed or carried out to better our election process. There is no voter fraud; there aren’t millions of people in the country illegally flooding the polls. How can having more days to ensure that as many Americans that are eligible to vote get a chance to, be a bad thing? Unless, one doesn’t like what those votes may be, because those votes may remove certain folk from power, because those votes decide elections and elections have, let’s say it together, consequences.

President Trump’s approval rating hangs around the low 40s and has never been much higher than that. He is often criticized for just speaking to his base. What Trump knows is that his base goes to the polls.

Dems can complain about the Obama voter who went for Trump, or the Bernie voter who stayed home because of the DNC’s shenanigans, until they are blue in the face. What I know, is that in my neighborhood, when Obama was running, you couldn’t get two feet outside your house without some volunteer asking you if you were registered to vote. I didn’t see Hillary Clinton’s volunteers in my neighborhood until late September, October.

Yet, even if a political campaign doesn’t have a good get out the vote effort, the responsibility of voting still lies squarely on the shoulders of the individual citizen. The millions of Americans that didn’t vote don’t live in caves isolated from the rest of civilization. No one says, “ Doggone it, I didn’t even know there was an election happening, who did you say was running for president, a reality TV star, really?”

Not voting is like standing in the middle of a road with a truck coming and saying I’m going to leave it up to the driver to decide whether or not to run me over. Voting is about taking agency for your life, for your community, for your country. Sometimes your side will win and sometimes not, but your issues will be considered because you could very well win the next time around. If you don’t vote, no one cares what you think or how you feel, because ignoring your thoughts and feelings have no consequences for those who make the decisions that govern your life.

The polls are open. I’ve got my sticker. Have you?

Howard Craft is a playwright in Durham.

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