If You Do Not Vote, You Have No Right To Complain
By Lauren Wilson, Columnist
I grew up in a family that took voting very seriously. My father, a preacher, often used his sermons to stress the importance of going to the polls and exercising your power to pick leaders who care about your community. The truth is, however, I never really understood why it was so important and how empowering it is to vote until I had my first chance to cast a ballot.
The first election I was able to vote in was the 2008 presidential election. I was a freshman at Wilberforce University, an HBCU that is ironically located in an Ohio town where the Ku Klux Klan still exists. Though I was terrified out of my mind, I joined other young people who walked door to door every day canvasing for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential bid.
It was during those days that I began to understand that my vote was crucial—that I, along with other African Americans, I had the ability to help determine who would be this country’s next president. I began to grasp just how significant that power was when Greene County officials launched an investigation of our voter registration efforts because it seemed impossible that we could legally register 300 Black college students—most of them women—to vote in same day early voting. The moment I saw our story in the national news I knew our votes really did matter. We were passionate and involved; and when Obama won the presidency, we learned that our actions can make change.
I am hoping the same excitement that we had in 2008 and 2012 gets us to the polls Tuesday, November 8, 2016. We may not be voting for the first Black president this time, but the issues are just as crucial. In states like Ohio, where I first voted, elected officials are passing laws that make it harder for young people and black people to vote. The only way we can change that is by showing up at the polls and casting ballots for the candidate who will protect our rights and lead this country in a positive direction.
I am proud of the role that young Blacks—particularly young Black women—played in the last two presidential elections. It truly was our votes that put Obama over the top and allowed him to become the leader of the world’s most influential nation. But our work is not done. It’s crucial that we show up at the polls this upcoming election, because though I cannot tell you for whom to vote, I have a hard time coming to terms that Donald Trump can possibly become our next president. It’s terrifying to even think about it but this is our reality. We have the opportunity to let our voices be heard so let us not be blinded by those who say our vote does not count because it does.
Please join me in voting on November 8 because you will have no right to complain if your candidate did not win and you did not vote. We must take accountability for our actions or lack thereof and we have a chance to make a difference. So, let’s take advantage of it. If you do not vote, you have no right to complain!
Lauren A. Wilson (“Law”) is the Communications Associate for The New York Criminal Justice Agency where she is responsible for developing media strategies to increase public awareness for their research