A vote is a voice

Samantha Watson

Guest Columnist

Robert Frost once said, “Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting.”

I didn’t register to vote until I was 24 years old and only now do I realize that for six years I missed opportunities to change the outcome of my life, my community and my country. I may have lived through the election of America’s first African American president, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the implementation of marriage equality but I can’t say that I had a hand in any of it. Instead, I actively ignored voter registration tables and told all my friends that I was opting out of “The System.” I skirted volunteers pointing to clipboards wearing American flag t-shirts but spouted off about politics at the dinner table every night. I joined AmeriCorps and witnessed the systemic racism and classism plaguing my community but continued to decline the biggest opportunity to enact change. I foolishly thought that my vote wouldn’t count; “how could it,” I thought, “when we operate in an electoral system?” I was incredibly undereducated about our voting policies and the history of voting rights in America.

For six years I took voting for granted, never remembering that 96 years ago I wouldn’t have even had the option to vote, nor the option in Georgia to cast my ballot alongside my best friend, whose skin isn’t white. The “right to vote” that I understand now is not a right at all; it is a privilege that so many had to fight for. A privilege that took multiple amendments to our Constitution and even more newly enacted laws in order to be enjoyed by all. I now appreciate that casting a vote is having a voice that hasn’t always been deemed valuable enough to hear. After six years of ignorance and centuries of silence, I have something to say.

Instead of ranting about police brutality and high tuition costs on Facebook, I can affect real change with my vote. Instead of rolling my eyes and scoffing at legislation I disagree with, I can let my representatives know what I think about them with my vote. Instead of bawling my eyes out after scrolling onto a video about the devastating effects of global warming, I can save the Earth with my vote. I am one of roughly 319 million voices in this country but I have a platform to speak with my vote, because even if my voice gets lost in the shuffle, my vote will be heard.

Any citizen eighteen or older with opinions about this country should read the ballot, educate themselves on legislation that confuses them or the positions of candidates they’re unfamiliar with and pick an early voting time that fits best in their schedule. If you have something to say, then vote. If you agree or disagree with people and legislation on the ballot, then vote. If you want to shape the outcome of your future, then vote. Vote because you can; vote because others before you fought for the right to vote.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” You remain silent when you do not vote.

Early voting in the United States is currently underway. To view early voting times and locations visit the Elections page on Henry County’s website at www.henrycounty-ga.org/regis trars.

Samantha is an Ola High School and Clayton State University alumnus who currently works as a Communications Specialist. She is a passionate individual who lives for public service, health and fitness and social justice.