No Vote, No Voice – Let’s Not Silence Ourselves this Election

PSA shoot 1While it may seem impossible to miss if you turn on network TV for any amount of time this fall, there are people – perhaps some know – who don’t know there is a big election coming up in November. Known as “mid-terms”, these elections happen “midway” between Presidential elections, and include US Congressional and Senate races as well as numerous local and state races. The ballots may also include referendums on funding issues and constitutional amendments. While mid-terms may not generate as much excitement as presidential races, they are just as vital to our democracy; perhaps even more so, as much of the policy that affects us in our daily lives originates in our local and state governments.

So how is it that 500,000 NC women who voted in the 2008 and 2012 Presidential elections skipped voting in 2010?* We would be the first to admit that missing an election can be easy to do, especially for over-scheduled women. Working full-time while providing the bulk of child and family care can leave us with little energy or capacity to even notice elections are happening, much less carve out time to head to the polling place to vote. With still no movement towards a national election holiday, and no guarantee that you can take time off of work to go vote, it’s possible that voting just becomes one more thing to fit into an already busy schedule. And as North Carolina eliminates same-day registration, cuts early voting hours (and potentially early polling locations), eliminates straight-party ticket voting and moves to require specific state picture IDs for voting in 2016, it seems voting is becoming more difficult for NC women, not less. (Read about all of the changes here).

While women and men across the state are currently challenging these election law changes in court, we’ve still all got to work with the system we have now if we want our voices to count this fall election. Voting is not the only way to have your voice heard in our society (we also like citizen advocacy), but it can be one of the most direct and straightforward ways to take part in the democratic process. So know your status, and exercise your rights. Check to make sure your voter registration is up-to-date; you have until October 10 to do this. While you are at it, check to see if your family/friends/co-workers/neighbors are registered, and encourage them to do so if they aren’t. Next, print out your ballot (link: “view my sample ballot“) and decide when you will go vote – write it on your calendar.  Early voting starts October 23 and runs through November 01. Election Day is November 04. Figure out which candidates in all the races best represent you, plan when you will vote, and take some other women with you; make it a social as well as civic event. Support each other in this process – if one of your friends needs some child care while she runs out to vote, help her out. If your neighbor needs a ride to the polls, make arrangements. Voting is our civic duty, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a moment to share with family, friends and neighbors. Go vote, and then go celebrate – you’ve just taken part in a process that has been around since the birth of democracy. Congratulations!

We know we will all need reminders between now and Election Day, so we filmed a short “Get Out the Women’s Vote” PSA this past weekend (see photos from the shoot in this post; featuring Tara Romano, President, and Tazra Mitchell, 2nd VP). We’ve got some editing to do still, but we hope to have that available soon for you all to share. Women create the change – #Vote2014 because #WEmatter.

Tara Romano, President, NCWU

*Data from member Democracy NC.

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