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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

We didn’t show up

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Twelve months after the United States experienced unprecedented voter turnout in the most historic election of our time, Blacks failed to keep Election Day momentum going.

While congratulations are in order for the passing of Wishard Hospital’s referendum, Marion County voter turnout was still low. At Recorder press time, the clerk’s office documented the following numbers with 561 of the 590 precincts reporting. Note the stark differences of this year’s results compared to last year:

Registered voters

2009: 562,188

2008: 697,559

Difference: -135,371

Ballots cast

2009: 65,617

2008: 381,759

Difference: – 316,142

Although there is much to be celebrated regarding the overwhelming support of Wishard’s referendum, the number of total voters who participated in this week’s election was dismal. While I understand that all the no-show voters weren’t Black, African-Americans represent a large part of Marion County and more of us should have voted if for no other reason than it being our right and in remembrance of those who lost their lives in an attempt to vote.

Last year, I stood in line for hours to cast my vote. This year, I walked in my precinct and was immediately given a ballot – there was no waiting period. Aside from the Wishard referendum, there weren’t any highly contested races or major agenda items…still, that isn’t a reason not to vote.

Blacks have to get in the habit of voting during every election, not just when heavy hitters are running or there’s something controversial on the ballot. We have to exercise our right all the time.

As I drove through the parking lot of my precinct, I noticed that the usual voting location at the school was moved to the north side of the building, which was about a block-and-a-half, further than the original location. There was an elderly Black woman at the original site, catching her breath before she proceeded to walk to the new location. I immediately noticed her swollen ankles and just as I was going to ask her if she wanted a ride, she beat me to the punch. As I drove to the new location, the woman proudly proclaimed that she was going to vote “no matter how long it took” her to get there.

While she and I were getting out of the car, there was an elderly white woman slowly making her way towards the entrance. I hurriedly ran to the door to hold it open for both the senior citizens. Holding the door, I couldn’t help but be proud of these two women who were so determined to cast their vote during a special election. As I reminded myself of the importance of voting, my eyes began to tear up. I realized that whatever these two women may have endured throughout their lives – pain, disappointment, triumphs and even disease – they still voted…during an election that they could have easily opted to sit out.

Seeing the pride on their faces as they entered the building was enough for me to recommit myself to the electoral process. As long as I have breath in my body and am of sound mind, I will never miss an election.

After I voted, I was conversing with one of the poll workers, so I didn’t have a chance to talk to either of the women before they left, but if I had, I would’ve told them how much I appreciate them for taking the time to vote.

I appreciate them for being so determined that they walked an extended distance on a nippy November morning to vote. I appreciate them for doing so in such a dignified and steadfast way.

It was an awesome experience for me to see those two women on Election Day…that moment would have been enhanced tremendously had I saw young Blacks walking unwaveringly towards the voting site. It saddens me to realize that a year after such an historic win for Americans in general and African-Americans specifically, we failed to show up.

For decades, complacency has been a problem for Blacks. If we don’t get our acts together, complacency will be a problem for all Americans come 2012 if a new president is elected.

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