In the current political landscape its easy to find reasons not to vote. Corporate money buying politicians, a process hijacked by two corrupt parties, voter ID laws, Washington grid-lock, gerrymandered districts leaving congressional re-election rates above 90%.
But every Election Day I have to remind myself that people have fought for our rights to vote. All of our rights. And when I think about our democratic fore-mothers and fore-fathers, I scrape together just enough hope to walk down the street and cast my vote.
So if you need some inspiration to get out and vote today.
Here are four reasons to still believe in voting.
Harvey Milk believed in voting.
After a lifetime of systematic oppression because of his sexual identity Harvey Milk still believed in the power of voting.
“The only thing they have to look forward to is hope. And you have to give them hope. Hope for a better world, hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better place to come to if the pressures at home are too great. Hope that all will be all right. Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us’es, the us’es will give up. And if you help elect to the central committee and other offices, more gay people, that gives a green light to all who feel disenfranchised, a green light to move forward. It means hope to a nation that has given up, because if a gay person makes it, the doors are open to everyone. So if there is a message I have to give, it is that if I’ve found one overriding thing about my personal election, it’s the fact that if a gay person can be elected, it’s a green light. And you and you and you, you have to give people hope….” – Harvey Milk
Martin Luther King Jr. believed in voting.
He dedicated his life to freedom and equality under the law. In a 1957 speech “Give Us The Ballot,” Dr. King speaking on the need for equal voting rights.
“All types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic tradition. And so our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote…So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
In Rochester, New York on November 5, 1872 Susan B. Anthony illegally voted and stood trial for it.
“Yes, but laws made by men, under a government of men, interpreted by men and for the benefit of men. The only chance women have for justice in this country is to violate the law, as I have done, and as I shall continue to do,” – Susan B Anthony’s response in court after being fined $100 for illegally voting as a woman.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison waiting for the right to vote.
Before being imprisoned for 27 years in Robins Island, in 1962 Mandela gave these words. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” – Nelson Mandela
When he returned to South Africa in 1994 he cast his first vote. And these were his words.
“It is the beginning of a new era. We have moved from an era of pessimism, division, limited opportunities, turmoil and conflict. We are starting a new era of hope, reconciliation and nation building. We sincerely hope that by the mere casting of a vote the results will give hope to all South Africans and make all South Africans realise this is our country. We are one nation.”
Go out an vote. If not for any other reason than to honor the legacy of these patron saints of democracy.