Putting It to a Vote

I try to imagine what the song of several million people sounds like – what several million more people could do for us all.

Let’s face it. Politics can be exhausting. Its characters stand on huge platforms making big promises, embellishing their values or attacking the shortcoming of their opponents, imposing their values on anyone who will listen, and dividing our already struggling communities. Politics has become synonymous with government, leaving many disenchanted and disinterested in being involved with either.

Voting isn’t just an important part of living in a democracy, it IS democracy. Voting is an important part of the role citizens play in providing a check on our systems and institutions. No one wants to live in a country where their needs or views don’t matter, but many make the decision not to vote – putting those very needs at risk.

Voter apathy stems from frustration with government, government infighting, stagnation and incompetence. Some see voting as a fruitless exercise in a political system that does not work for them, a system that is deeply flawed, with key players that are self-interested and disingenuous.

But politics is not government – even if it seems that way. Politics is about relationships and debate, conflict and advantage. Political affairs are rife with competition and special interest groups vying for power and an opportunity to showcase their leadership.

Government is bigger than politics. Government is purposeful and necessary. Government brings stability and security and should be a unifying force centered on our financial future, our protection and civility.

Our government is composed of 3 branches – executive, legislative and judicial. Our role as this 4th branch of America was designed by our founding fathers to serve as a check on the powers of the other 3. The opening words of the constitution “We the People” should be a constant reminder that the government derives its power from the consent of its people.

According to the Washington Post, 41.9 percent of eligible voters in the 2016 election did not vote. Several million people didn’t vote, but more importantly, several million American voices silenced themselves. Some of these voices were the voices of people struggling to get by. Some fearing for their lives on the streets of America. Some in need of healthcare, a living wage, clean water. As I write this, I try to imagine what the song of several million people sounds like – what several million more people could do for us all.

So many marginalized groups in our history battled for the right to vote through protest and civil rights movements. Those people would not have the right to vote today were it not for their powerful voice being heard by people in elected leadership willing to enact that law. The 15th and 19th amendments were ratified because voters elected the leaders that got it done.

Some view voting as a right. Something we are entitled to. Perhaps, but this definition allows us to discard our vote if ever it becomes cumbersome or inconvenient. It also opens up the possibility that some of us are undeserving – too insignificant to be heard. Others view voting as a privilege – something hard fought – something that one should be grateful to have. No, voting is a responsibility we have and take in tribute to the life our democracy affords us no matter how challenging. Maybe. But more than all of these things – voting is a responsibility we have to our country to ensure that she – and we – remain free.

 

Lawanda Horton Sauter is a native New Yorker and professional fundraiser. She moved to Philly in 2006 with her husband, Henry, who was attending law school here. The couple created Mission Incorporated to provide advisory and consulting services, specializing in grassroots fundraising for non-profits. FUN FACT: Both Lawanda & Henry share a background in Performing Arts  – Lawanda as an actor/rapper & Theatre Historian, and Henry as a Cellist.

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