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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Participation in democracy doesn’t end Nov. 3 — it’s only the beginning

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Election Day is just days away.

We’ve seen record numbers come out early to cast their ballots for their chosen candidates. People are waiting to vote for hours in lines that snake around buildings. While I know “enduring” a long wait isn’t really that much of a challenge compared to what some of our grandparents went through to vote, but all things are relative. We’re used to walking in and out of our polling place with very little if any wait. So, I’m proud of everyone who has come out and “endured” the long wait. 

I’m going to break a vow I made in 2008 and vote early this year. See, 2008 was the first and only time I voted early, and it was the first and only time I stood in line to wait for hours to cast a vote. The line wrapped around J. Everett Light Career Center, and then snaked through halls until we finally arrived at the voting area. I remember feeling especially proud to not only have voted for the first Black president, but also to have stood in line for hours to cast my vote. Never in my history of voting had I waited so long to cast my ballot. And never in my life would I do it again.

Well, you know that old saying, “never say never.” 

The phrase “the most important election of our lifetime” is now cliche as is “these unprecedented times.” However, there’s often truth to cliches. More and more is on the line with each presidential election. Most of us also have never lived through a pandemic — and social unrest — so the times are unprecedented, indeed.

Unlike 12 years ago, the weather won’t be warm when I vote early. Those who know me well know I dread cold weather and try to limit my time in at as much as possible. However, I’m prepared to “endure” chilly temperatures and long lines to cast my ballot because I believe this election is that important. 

And, it’s not just important because of the presidential election. School board members, congressional representatives, coroner, surveyor, treasurer and judges are on the ballot as well. These offices or seats may not receive as much attention as the president, but local and state government are vital to our democracy. 

My hope is the momentum we see happening for this election continues well afterward. I believe the second Civil Rights Movement has been a catalyst for more people — especially young adults — to become involved in our political system.

Once we cast our ballot, let’s not wait until the next election to pay attention to elected officials. When we walk out of our polling place, we need to be thinking about the next election. Every election cycle there’s murmuring about “this party takes us for granted” or “that party ignores us.” We can end all of that if we just hold elected officials — regardless of party — accountable. If they know they have to actually earn our vote, they will work harder to do so.

So, if our chosen candidate won the election, we need to remember their campaign promises and hold them to it. If our candidate didn’t win, we still need to watch the winner’s record and hold them accountable. We need to pay attention to their actions not just their words.

I think a fire has been ignited among many Black voters, empowering us anew. We’re realizing we can’t take it for granted that our best interests will be considered just because we exist. We have to make our presence known and felt. America has come into a new day of reckoning with Black people, and I’m here for it.

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