If your vote isn’t important, why are they trying so hard to take it away?
We’ve come to think about democracy as a form of consumption, like everything else, where voting is just a indication of preference. This is what the dominant narrative wants you to think: politics is just like buying a pair of socks. That way, when they place restrictions on that right or take it away from your neighbors, you won’t mind so much.
But democracy is really about what happens on either side of election day. It’s about telling stories, building relationships, and leveraging power. It’s holding officials accountable and showing up at their offices. Your officials don’t represent you if they don’t have a relationship with you.
The forces of domination and empire would really rather you stay home, stay quiet, and let lobbyists and money have all the influence. Even our Supreme Court has declared that democracy is consumption, because money is speech.
That is a lie.
Alabama,* we’ve got elections coming up. Your state has tried to make it as difficult as possible for you to vote — spreading out multiple elections in the same month (senate primaries on the 15th, municipal elections on the 22nd), shutting down registration locations, and most recently, refusing to tell some ex-prisoners that they may actually be able to vote after all.
Your state legislators have gerrymandered you so officials could choose their voters instead of voters choosing their officials. They have sold you the most cynical and hopeless of political narratives, that “this is Alabama, and it’s just the way things are,” because they want you to stay home. They DO NOT WANT you to turn out. They have made that abundantly clear.
If this is your home, fight for it.
1. Make sure you are registered (They may have silently unregistered you if you haven’t voted recently. They do that.)
2. Make sure you know your polling place (They may have moved it, or moved your district. They do that, too.)
3. Join the discussion. Go to the forums and debates. Talk to your neighbors. There are multiple opportunities to hear from candidates before the election, so you don’t have to walk in to the voting booth uninformed. Check out Stand As One and I Believe in Birmingham.
4. If you have a strong preference, join a campaign, or if you’re just serious about your community, join one of many Get Out The Vote campaigns (I’m with Faith in Action Alabama). They have a way for you to help. Work with your congregation or other community organization to get people to the polls.
5. On election day(s), VOTE.
6. After election day, hold your representatives accountable. Stand As One, who represents over 20 justice, advocacy, and service organizations is asking for follow-up meetings with candidates 100 days after their election. Faith in Action Alabama, a multi-faith, multi-racial federation of over 60 congregations all across Alabama, has a multi-year strategy to engage our state legislators and our governor. Write, call, and email your officials about your vision for your community.
Yes, I recognize that having the time to be engaged is a privilege. Making you too tired and overwhelmed to participate, keeping people in a state of perpetual poverty and debt; that is part of the disenfranchisement strategy. That’s why we have to love and support each other. Help your neighbors. Babysit their kids. Make food for each other. That’s also democracy.
Do not buy into the lie that your vote is just an indication of preference. You are not buying a pair of socks; you are shaping our future.
“Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7)
*I’m focused on where I live. If you’re reading this in another state, a lot of this same stuff applies! Look up “get out the vote” campaigns in your state.