This blog is a guest piece written by one of our NC Get Out Her Vote! Campus Coordinators, Becki Fernandez. Becki is a college sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, part-time rockstar and full-time feminist. She is in an all girls feminist rock band, Swine, that will surely save the world and rock n roll. She is majoring in Communication Studies at UNCW, with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. In her free time, you can find her at Taco Bell or crying at sloth videos on her laptop. Becki is fiercely proud of her Cuban heritage and is not afraid to steal the aux cord at parties and play some salsa. Keep your eyes peeled for more of her work on the Feminist Campus blog!
I have been voting ever since I turned 18, no matter how small the election might seem. Every elected position, from a local Board of Education position to the President, is important. Every elected position in public office has the capacity to affect our daily lives as citizens. A tag team of voter apathy and voter suppression efforts are why we are currently dealing with policies like bathroom bills, anti-choice bills, and even laws that block the release of police body camera footage. Legislators make these decisions, and we are the ones that elect them by either voting or not voting.
The legislators that are passing these laws do not want us to vote, and that is why they are making it hard for us, as students, to vote. It’s no coincidence that college IDs were not accepted in the latest pathetic attempt at a voter ID law in North Carolina. This law made presenting a valid identification card, like a state-issued driver’s license, required for voting, despite little to no evidence of voting fraud. The law also put restrictions on early voting, preregistration, and more, all provisions that predominately young voters and minority voters used. This voter ID law, of course, was struck down for being blatantly discriminatory with provisions that almost exclusively targeted minority voters. Beyond voter suppression, North Carolina is also known for gerrymandering, transphobia, TRAP laws, declining public education, and Bojangles’.
I empathize with my peers when they talk about how discouraged they are with our political system because of these problems, and that is why they believe their vote doesn’t count. But I say, that is absolutely why your vote counts! Our vote is the most powerful one, and that is why so many people in power do not want us to vote, because there are so many of us! Our millennial vote could decide any election.
As millennials, our vote is our future because we are the future. These are our rights that are being decided. These are our friends’ rights that are being decided. This is the fate of our planet being decided. This is the fate of our nation being decided.
That is why myself and other dedicated students on my campus are working so hard to get students registered. We have all worked together to make sure there is at least two days a week where a group is outside registering voters, to hold special events to spark student interest in voting, handed out and hung up numerous flyers on voting education information, and given out many prizes and goodies to students who promise they’ll vote in November. We have voter registration forms out always in numerous offices in campus, and we’ve asked for multiple professors in various departments to help garner student interest in voting. As a woman, it has not even been a full century since I have had the right to vote on the basis of my sex. Furthermore, it’s only been a little over 50 years since African-Americans have had the full right to vote. Knowing that people have been jailed over, been beat over, and have even died fighting for our right to vote, I can never sit out on any election. In a democracy, it is our civic duty to vote. That is how democracy works!
I have to thank all the teachers and professors I have had that have instilled the importance of voting and civic duty in me. Without their persistence in my voting education, I probably would not care as much. It really takes knowing extensively about how our vote really does count and about all the people who historically have and event presently are trying to restrict our right to vote just because it does not suit them. To anyone who feels discouraged and has given up on voting, I implore you to reconsider. When we have only about half of the voting age of the country voting, of course it seems like our voice is not making a difference. If we all participate in the democratic process, our representatives will actually represent us.
For more information on the Get Out Her Vote! Campaign in North Carolina and how you can get involved, email the HBCU and Southern National Campus Organizer Chelsea Yarborough at firstname.lastname@example.org