What my 35th Birthday Taught me About Voting

Just before my 35th birthday at the end of August, I decided to run a campaign called MEPturns35. (“Mep” is me, my nickname since college.) It would center around voting. I was going to raise $350 for Stacey Abram’s organization Fair Fight and get 350 people to commit to voting in November. It was just shy of a spectacular failure. At the time of this writing, I’ve raised $300 for Fair Fight (not bad) and had 39 commitments to vote (terrible). 

*AN ASIDE: The fundraiser is over, but you can donate directly to Fair Fight here. And you can still commit to vote here!*

UPDATE 9/30: The other part of the campaign was that I promised a playlist. You can find it here: MEPturns35: The Playlist

Attempting to get folks pumped about voting during a pandemic, having the whole project derailed by a massive hurricane, and then being personally distracted by a major work project haven’t helped, but I think there’s more to it than that.

The thing that MEPturns35 did well was help me to see that not everyone fully grasps the importance of voting, there’s general uncertainty (or downright pessimism) regarding candidates, and all of this increases tenfold once you get down-ballot to local elections

WHY VOTE? 

Some people point to the fact that others died for us to have this right. That’s true, and I’m grateful for their fight and for their sacrifice. But I don’t vote because of the past, I vote because it impacts the future. 

I cannot stress this enough: Voting really does matter. The people who represent us in government, those who make decisions and those who enforce them, make a difference. Their decisions may not always directly impact our lives, and sometimes the effects of those decisions are hard to see, but that doesn’t mean we should take them for granted.

[And before you say anything about living in a Red State or a Blue State, please please please read this article: In a Deep Blue or Red State? You Can Still Influence Politics. And also, read further down because I’m gonna discuss local races too!]

Perhaps more importantly, for the most vulnerable in our society, the decisions that are made and the effects of those decisions are felt more quickly and more powerfully: those who rely on government programs and assistance, those in the foster care system or in the prison system, people facing natural (and unnatural) disasters. Even if you don’t vote for yourself, vote for the most vulnerable people in our society. 

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT THE PRESIDENT

We all remember Schoolhouse Rock, right? And How a Bill Becomes a Law? Here in Louisiana, we’re voting on congressional candidates for both the House and the Senate. (If, like me, you need a refresher on what Congress does, here’s a recap: The Bicameral Congress: Crash Course Government and Politics #2 – it sounds boring, but I promise it’s not!)

And in Rapides Parish, we’re also voting for District Attorney. Honestly, I couldn’t have told you exactly what the DA did until July of this year. Here’s the best summary I’ve found:

“There’s a general understanding that the DA’s office is the prosecutorial arm of the court system, bringing charges against those who break the law. But the job requires more than just being an agent of the law; when maximized to its creative potential, the District Attorney can introduce propositions, institute criminal justice reform measures, and change the structure of how we respond to marginalized populations who end up in jail.” – Nuala Sawyer Bishari

(This is the part where I heartily endorse Jermaine Harris for Rapides Parish DA!)

But other elected positions are important too. Sorry (not sorry) for all the quotes, but others often say it better than I can!

“As states debate the issues and reshape their laws, our nation may follow in implementing similar reforms over time. By electing local officials who support the causes you believe in, you can be part of making a change at a local level that could eventually catch on as federal law. And in the meantime, you’ll be happy with the laws your state has incorporated.” – Becky Kip (Highly recommend the full article: Voting for mayor is more important than voting for president – The Hill) 

The Secretary of State website for your state is probably the best place to find out more about the candidates on your ballot. But if you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We are more than happy to help.

HOW TO VOTE
(And why Early Voting is the best!)

Don’t even know who to vote for? I recommend starting here: 

I Side With Political Quiz. I Side With offers an EXTENSIVE questionnaire to help you determine the candidates that best align with your values. What I love about this test over others is that it offers both simple and complex answer options, gives you a chance to learn more about any issue they ask about, allows you to skip questions, AND gives you a chance to answer MORE questions about the issues you care most about. It’ll then give you detailed results about the candidates whose stances most closely match your values. 

It took me about 30 minutes, answering ALL available questions and reading all answer options. It’ll take you a little longer if you also read the “Learn More” sections, but a little less if you just answer the basic questions. 

If you’ve never voted, maybe not even sure if you’re registered, IT’S SO EASY. You can Google “Register to Vote + [your state]” to get directly to your state’s registration page (might get processed a bit faster). Or you can go here: vote.org (takes 2 minutes!). 

This article is packed full of info on mail-in and early voting: Early voting in 2020 is crucial. Many can do it by mail or in person. Here’s how. 

“Because voting early, Perez said, has a smoothing effect — not just for you but for everyone else. If voting is spaced out over days, for example, and everyone goes at different times, then there won’t be that crush of ballots or crowds. If there are glitches, it will affect fewer people, making it easier to correct.” 

Bottom line:
If you can, VOTE EARLY!

Louisiana friends: Everything you need is here: Voter Portal

I highly recommend the GeauxVote app. You can get election alerts so you never miss an election and get alerted when early voting starts for your precinct.

Rapides Parish friends: Early voting starts on October 16th! You can go to any early voting location. I think there are usually two in Rapides Parish, but Kees Park is easiest for parking/getting in/etc. If you’ve never been and want a friend to come with, let me know! 

Here’s what I want you to takeaway: Voting matters. If you don’t know how, there’s help. (If there’s something missing above, get in touch.) And if you can, vote early. 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Why Down-Ballot Races Are So Important – NowThis
Block the Vote: Voter Suppression in 2020 – ACLU
Voter Suppression Efforts By Republicans Target Minorities, Journalist Says – NPR
Why early voting is about so much more than convenience – Washington Post

These sites will help you find out what’s on your ballot, including constitutional amendments:

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