“If we’re going to try to say that the system has to be corrected for us to receive justice, we have to do everything that we can to be part of the system. Until we have people in office, it will never be better. Not just presidents – mayors, county executives, the governor.” 26-year old Demarkus Madyun of St. Louis speaking to a New York Times reporter during a recent voter registration drive in Ferguson, Missouri
For months, you have been hearing all the reasons why you won’t vote on November 4th. They include a turnout gap, an enthusiasm gap, and discriminatory voter ID laws. Now it’s time to make your voice heard and prove all these reasons wrong. With so much at stake in this election, the reasons to vote far outweigh any reason or excuse to stay home.
If you want to close the income and achievement gaps – vote. If you want to end police killings of unarmed Black men and see a real commitment to community policing – vote. If you want to live in a democracy that encourages more, not fewer, people to go to the polls – vote. If you believe in quality health care and quality education for all – vote. If you want to shutdown the school to prison pipeline – vote. If you want justice in the courts and are determined that not one more innocent child will die because of easy access to guns – vote.
In less than one week, the power for change will rest solely in our hands. Don’t let that power slip away.
In fact, Black Americans have a chance to again make history as in 2012 when we were the most powerful swing vote in the country. With majority control of the U.S. Senate hanging in the balance, the African American vote could tip the scales. According to a New York Times analysis, “African-Americans could help swing elections in Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and possibly Arkansas, but only if they turn out at higher-than-forecast rates.”
In case you hadn’t noticed, there are a record number of Black candidates running for office this year. As Jesse Holland of the Associated Press reports, “More than 100 Black candidates will be on the ballot in state-wide and congressional races, a post Reconstruction record…” Citing statistics compiled by David Bositis, who has tracked Black electoral politics for years, Holland reports that 83 Black Republicans and Democrats are vying for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and at least 25 African Americans are running for state-wide offices. They include Anthony Brown, who would be Maryland’s first African American governor and only the third elected Black governor in our nation’s history. New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker and South Carolina Republican Tim Scott are running to retain their seats as the only two African Americans in the United States Senate.
The tragic death of Michael Brown, the disrespect shown to citizens of Ferguson and the paucity of Black elected officials in a city that is 67 percent Black also remind us that change must begin in the voting booth. Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge recently said, “The 2014 elections were important before Ferguson. We’ve always treated it that way. The unrest has raised the awareness that our vote is our voice and that leadership in our communities and our country matters.”
We agree. Whether you cast an early ballot or stand in line on election day…whether you live in Texas with the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation or in Wisconsin where a similar law was struck down... whether you Rock the Vote or Occupy the Vote – on November 4th, make sure you show up at the polls – and vote.
Marc Morial is the president and CEO of the National Urban League.