“This is the most important election of our lifetime.”
Those words seem to echo in every election, including 2012. Four years ago, we saw a historic election with high voter participation—when many of those voters knew that their choice would elect the first African-American to the White House. Today, enthusiasm is understandably lower, as the United States continues to recover from a bad economy, and racial justice still seems like a far off goal that certainly won’t be fixed with one presidential election. According to a recent Gallup poll, voter turnout will pale in comparison to the two previous elections.
In the months ahead of Election Day, we’ve written here about dubious voter purges, cut offs to early voting, voter intimidation and more. Groups like True the Vote and their tactics may serve only to disenfranchise certain voters. The fact that so much has been invested to suppress peoples’ right to vote—particularly after the election of the country’s first black president—should indicate voting remains a threat, because those votes can destabilize the way power has traditionally been held.
Voting rights still matter as much as the act of voting itself. Aside from the long history that guaranteed suffrage for all adult citizens, casting a ballot does make a difference to our future. This is especially true in a country where demographic shifts will inevitably have to be reflected in domestic policy.
The upcoming presidential race may determine the future makeup of the Supreme Court, and congressional races will mark whether cooperation or filibustering will define the next four years. And state and local races will determine issues much closer to home.
Some states, like California, use ballot measures so that voters can weigh in on everything from GMO labeling to the death penalty. Our Los Angeles based community journalist Maegan E. Ortiz writes in this week about why voting might be a matter of life and death in California.
Why Voting Is Critical for People of Color Communities
It’s sometimes hard to argue why getting to the polls on November 6 is critical in a non-swing state like California. The blue state is often used more like an ATM than for actual campaigning by both parties in federal elections. There is little talk of voter suppression with California seeing a record number of voter registrations. But registering and actually voting are two different things. The statewide primary elections in June yielded a disappointing turnout, especially among communities of color.