The excuses I have heard from people who refuse to vote during election season never cease to amaze me.
Some say their vote won’t change anything. The dysfunctional government – locally, statewide and nationally – will continue regardless of whoever gets elected, they say.
In this presidential election that boasts flawed candidates, some have said they aren’t going to vote at all because neither candidate is worthy of occupying the Oval Office.
And then we have those who are simply too lazy to take the time to exercise one of this country’s most crucial, fundamental constitutional rights.
For those reading this column for the first time, let me make my position crystal clear: Not voting is the most egregious act of contempt and disdain for this country.
Further, if you are black, Latino or a woman, and fail to cast your ballot on any Election Day, you do a horrible disservice to the thousands of people who protested, marched and even died to secure this basic right.
Blacks have had the right to vote since 1870 with the passage of the 15th Amendment and augmented by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented black Americans from exercising their right.
Women have had the right to vote since 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
The guarantee of Latinos to vote came with an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1975. That extension, signed by President Gerald Ford, ended discrimination against so-called “language minorities,” the Mexican Americans of Texas and California, Puerto Ricans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Alaskans, Hawaiians and others who continued to be kept from voting for at least a decade after the Voting Rights Act became law, according to an NBC News report.
Being registered to vote means nothing unless you actually make the time to go out and vote.
Let me break it down further to show you how ridiculous any argument sounds against voting.
In most cases, you are asked to go to the voting booths twice a year – the primary election and the general election. That’s it. Depending on the number of candidates and issues on the ballot, it takes less than 15 minutes to complete the voting process. And that includes showing your identification to the poll workers and signing your name in the voter registry.
You mean to tell me your life is so busy that you can’t spare 15 minutes twice a year?
The polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. That means you have 13 hours to vote Tuesday.
Well, you might say I don’t like standing in lines, particularly during a presidential election. My answer: You probably don’t mind standing in line to attend a sporting event, or even camping out overnight to buy the latest iPhone or buy tickets to a concert.
We make time for what is most important to us.
And many states, including Ohio, have early voting in place to make exercising your right to vote more convenient.
In-person early voting started in Ohio on Oct. 12. You can vote today at your local election board from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. In Mahoning County, that is at Oak-hill Renaissance Place, 345 Oak Hill Ave., Youngstown; in Trumbull County at the board office at 2947 Youngstown-Warren Road SE, Warren; and in Columbiana County at the board office at 7989 Dickey Drive, Lisbon.
Absentee voting began 35 days before Tuesday’s election. If you requested mail ballots, you must have them postmarked no later than midnight Monday to be counted.
When you need a ride to get somewhere you really want to go, you will call anyone you know to get you there. You even get a ride on a Western Reserve Transit Authority bus or call a taxi. What about doing that same thing to get to your polling place?
What if you don’t know where you can vote? Well, you can make a phone call to the board of elections, go online on your computer or use the library’s computer, or use your smartphone to find that information. Total time: Probably less than five minutes.
Voting is both a right and privilege. All Americans of voting age, beginning at 18, should avail themselves of that right.
Finally, voting is always most crucial on the local level.
Candidates want your vote. School districts trying to pass levies, and cities and townships seeking either new money or keeping funds already in place to maintain services, need your vote. Do you want liquor served at your neighborhood restaurant or grocery store? Only you can answer that question.
I have seen many election outcomes won or lost by a single vote in my 40 years in journalism. In our democracy, your vote can make a difference. Don’t shirk your responsibility. If you do, don’t complain about the government you get.
Ernie Brown Jr., a regional editor at The Vindicator, writes a monthly minority-affairs column. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org