I recently ran across a video by media mogul Nick Cannon titled “Too Broke to Vote.” There was Nick Cannon a young black man, draped in American regalia standing in front of an election poll painting our current political landscape. In essence, he was insinuating that America’s current voting process is bought and/or pre-determined and that choosing between any candidate…you’re…well…the word that rhymes with STUCK. These words sound good to the ears, but is it actually true? Are we too broke to vote? Although this may sound good, there are some fallacies in this argument, which is often the sign of a pseudo-intellectualism. As one YouTuber commented, “nonobjective cynicism is sheer laziness.” Now, I’m not criticizing Nick Cannon’s artistic expression. He may very well just be expressing a sentiment and may very well cast his ballot come November. But bullshit is very delectable to bullshitters. You can roll it around in powdered sugar to make it appear more delectable. It’s still nothing more than sweet bullshit.
In his spoken word piece, Cannon mentions the Crime Bill of ‘94. The impact of the Crime Bill on this election proves that there are many who don’t fully understand the limits of the federal government. State and local elections are just as important if not more important than the presidential election. Let’s avoid reviewing the Crime Bill of 1994 again. (You can read about its impact here.) Another example is the Affordable Healthcare Act — Obamacare. Obamacare was passed as a mandate for universal healthcare for all. However, there are several states that have decided not to accept the portion of the bill that expanded Medicaid. Your states decision to deny this portion of federal law relies heavily on your state’s party allegiance. If your state reelected a Republican governor and state representatives, then Medicaid’s expansion was more than likely denied at the state level, further disenfranchising the broke.
Take a closer look at the mid-term election of 2014 and you’ll see how it became possible for poor people to become further disenfranchised. According to the US Census Bureau, less than 42% of voting citizens actually participated in the election process, the lowest rate since 1998 (45.3%). Break this down across demographic lines, the numbers are worse. The white electorate showed up at a rate of 45.8% with the largest turnout among race. Only 40.6 % of the black electorate participated and 27% of the Hispanic electorate. Those 65+ in age voted at a 59.4% rate in stark contrast to those between the ages of 18-34 (23.1%). This trend is reflective across income and education also. In other words, the largest electorates were white, 65+ and wealthy. These are the people that decided the direction of the country for the next four years or more, considering the impact legislation passed (or not passed). Voting rates are higher during presidential elections (61.8% in 2012), but there’s still a huge gap in turnout. This means that depending on the election, between 40 – 60% of the electorate are letting other people decide the fate of this nation. Starting to see how important your vote is now?
With such a low turnout, you would think the government (both state and local) would pass legislation to make voting easier. Yet, our voting rights are being attacked, making it easier for that 40 – 60% to further disengage in the voting process. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed what is considered to be “the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in the US History,” the Voting Rights Act. This legislation extended the 15th Amendment of 1870 in favor of protecting the black vote. Fast forward to 2013, and one of the most important portions of the act has been struck down, Section 5. Section 5 of the act required federal approval of changes to voting laws based on a history of discrimination. However, in the case of Shelby County v. Holder, the US Supreme Court determined that that portion of the act was no longer necessary. The impact of this change is already impacting the 2016 election. Difficulty for voting is beginning to rise in Texas, North Carolina and of course Georgia with the introduction of photo ID laws. There’s the elimination of online voting registration, early voting, Sunday voting, same-day registration, and pre-registration for teens. Voting polls are even becoming longer. In Arizona, polling locations in one county went from 200 to 60 under the notion of “saving money” with many voters waiting past midnight to cast their votes. These are more important reasons to participate in this year’s election—to not only elect a president that’ll nominate a suitable Supreme Court justice, but to also elect Congress members that’ll pass it.
Some may argue that there are other reasons not to vote. There’s gerrymandering that usually falls on racial and partisan lines instead of legitimate bipartisan representation. There’s the debate over super delegates and whether or not it’s democratic in principle (even though historically they have voted according to the popular and delegate vote). And then there’s the issue of Super PACs that even Barack Obama has criticized although it started during his 2008 campaign. Yet still, these are not legitimate reasons to not participate in the election process but whether a call-to-action to participate at all cost. For this is a far cry from the days of Susan B. Anthony fighting for women’s suffrage or Martin Luther King petitioning the government to end systemic discrimination. Not voting is not a valid form of protest. Valid protest has an intent of reaching a resolution or some type of resolve. Our leaders and ancestors did not fight for you to have the right to choose not to vote. You already had that right just as our ancestors had the right not to fight racism or leave the plantation mentally or physically. Don’t let your right to not vote reflect your unwillingness to fight or participate, especially when the choice of voting isn’t between freedom or death. #TooBrokeNotToVote