Early voting lasted two long weeks, yet only few people voted. It is shocking, but fewer than 20 percent voted during the primary elections.
Many reasons are given for the low turnout, especially in disenfranchised communities.
Here are a few of the reasons, in the words of people who give them, and my responses:
1. “I don’t vote because I don’t believe that my vote makes a difference. The more things change, the more they stay the same.’’
Cliché, cliché, cliché. It seems to me that you are supposed to vote to prevent stalling, to ensure that change is brought to your neighborhood. I’ve found that schools in underserved communities cannot compare to those in posh neighborhoods in physical appearance, allocated resources, quality of teachers and even in student/teacher ratio. Yet homeowners in Brownsville pay taxes just like those who live in Fisher Island. The difference is that homeowners in Fisher Island vote. They hold their school board representatives, teachers and principals accountable. They demand quality schools, safe and clean neighborhoods—they get them!
2. “I don’t vote because of lack of time, opportunity and transportation.’’
Early voting lasted two weeks! The polls stay open late on weekdays. Saturdays and Sundays they closed at 5 p.m.. If you don’t have a car, you could catch a bus, get a lift from family or friends. Ride a bike, a horse, or a donkey. The point is, I don’t care how you get there! Just get there and exercise your sacred right – the right to vote!
3. “I don’t vote because I lost my voting rights.’’
How many times have you heard this: “If I could vote, I would, but I’ve done things that I shouldn’t. I was stupid, ya know.”
As it stands right now, this is an unacceptable excuse. Unless you’ve gone through the process of regaining your rights – you’ll be unworthy of my blessings— or my compassion. To me, this is a fight and a right worth fighting and dying for. Our ancestors were beaten, maimed, and killed for that right! They endured the worst type of humiliation, torture and beating for that right! You went out and did bad things? Well, it is high time to do something right! It is not too late! Call Brad Brown at the Miami-Dade NAACP at 305-685-8694 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You know what to tell him! If you really need help, that is….
4. “I don’t vote due to general skepticism about life itself. It doesn’t matter what I do, things will remain the same!’’
As long as you believe that…Well! Looking for inspiration, I picked up Cry Hope by Jan Veltman.
This is what it said, “When we perceive a failure in life, it is often not completely so. However, there certainly are less successful situations where the key missing ingredient was full commitment, total investment of intention. You cannot fool your whole organism wise-self. If you waver on the fence regarding the worthiness of it all, consciously or subconsciously, the endeavor is undermined to some degree. Trust your intuitive knowings about what is right for you and wholeheartedly commit. Greater success is assured. All things work together for this; Your energy flows, you miss no open doors.’’
Those who are U.S. citizens but have not registered to vote have 30 days to do so before the general election. Those who need to regain their rights may lose out on this historic vote…maybe not. The only way to know is to try, or you’ll miss out on this unprecedented happening, the first time ever that an African-American will be on the ballot for president of the United States of America!
The sheer importance of this is extraordinary, mind-blowing! All others should take advantage of early voting so that you can help get people to the polls on election day.
Call your sons and daughters in the Army, Navy, wherever they are overseas, and ask them to mail their absentee ballots early.
Don’t miss out on this historic opportunity and, as poet Jean Desire penned, “It is time to wake up! Because tomorrow there may be no time! Time to wake up! Time to wake up now!
Marleine Bastien is the founder and executive director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami (FANM), or Haitian Women of Miami, Inc.