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Friday, July 12, 2024

Vote: Speak for yourself

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Only 13% of Marion County voters voted in the primaries in May of this year. Of over 600,000 registered voters, less than 80,000 turned up to the polls. Prior to that, just 34% of voters cast their ballots in the 2022 general election.

There are many barriers to voting, including time, transportation to the polls, dissatisfaction with the government or the candidates available. Those challenges are valid and may influence some not to vote, but there is an even bigger challenge at hand.

According to a 2020 study by the Medill School of Journalism, Ipsos and NPR, most non-voters chose not to vote simply because they felt their vote did not matter. They did not feel that anything would change if they actually took the time and made the effort to vote.

“Instead, non-voters feel a sense of alienation and apathy; they are generally detached from the news and pessimistic about politics,” per the report.

People that feel like nothing will change are far less likely to take action. History has proven that voting matters, but people still feel like it does not. Voting has recently affected the outcomes of American lives in a myriad of ways. Whichever side of the issues you land on, voting has brought about major changes to reproductive rights, gun laws, policing and access to health care.

The belief that voting does not matter is harmful. In “The Mis-Education of the Negro,” Carter G. Woodson wrote about how thoughts and beliefs of inferiority lead to inaction.

“If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself,” wrote Woodson.

By nature, people who feel like their vote does not count will do everything in their power to prove themselves right by not voting at all. Choosing not to vote is similar to living as the child that is expected to be seen and not heard. That child is repeatedly sent the message that their voice does not matter. While many people no longer believe in raising children this way, people are essentially silencing themselves by not exercising the right to vote.

In the 1700s, voting was a privilege only awarded to white men who owned property, excluding non-whites, working class and poor people. A century later during Reconstruction, voting was opened to Black men. Under Reconstruction there was a significant number of Blacks who took office. Soon after, those who opposed this rise to power for Black people instituted barriers to voting, like poll taxes and literacy tests.

Walking through the exhibits of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., you will find images of Black congressmen and senators from the late 1800s. A part of history that is often untold, it is almost jarring to see the distinguished-looking Black politicians sitting alongside their white counterparts at a time in history when we were taught that Blacks had very little power.

Sojourner Truth, an outspoken abolitionist who was once enslaved, worked tirelessly for years for the woman’s right to vote. In her famous, “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered in Akron, Ohio, in 1851, she argued that women ought to be given an opportunity to participate.

“If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again!” exclaimed Truth.

Women did not earn the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in the U.S. Constitution in the 1920s. There are arguments to be made as to whether women are voting in their own best interest of late, but abstaining from voting surely is no solution. Opting out simply cannot be the best option.

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions, you do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it,” Woodson wrote.

To accept the idea that our vote does not matter is to accept ‘our place’ and stay in it, allowing someone else to decide about what is best for me. Who better than me can speak for me?

If you, yes, you – the person reading this article, are not the best person to represent your interests at the polls, then who is?

Contact Editor-in-Chief Camike Jones at camikej@indyrecorder.com or 317-762-7850.

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