It’s Important To Stay Informed On Elections That Affect You

Presented By TJCEP

Voting is extremely important. Duh! Everyone knows that. We’ve been bombarded by the media telling us that every vote counts (which is true), but it’s usually presidential elections that get all the attention. A lot of people only focus on choosing the candidate they want as the next POTUS. While this is important, for obvious reasons (*ahem* Trump), during these elections we also get to vote on other stuff like policies that address social issues affecting our community–same-sex marriage, taxes, the environment (think plastic bags in California), or giving the government permission to borrow money, etc.

You might be thinking, “That’s great!” But TBH elections aren’t just every four years, in fact, they happen quite often. Choosing the President of the United States is not the only official we get to elect. We also hold state, county and municipal elections for officials with crazy important jobs. Take a District Attorney for instance; they hold a lot of power in our criminal justice system. To give you a very quick overview, D.A.s make key decisions like who goes to prison and for how long!

Unfortunately, during these “smaller” elections, the turnout is significantly lower than presidential electionswhich, already has a lower turnout in comparison to other countries. To make matters worse, elections can come extremely close (sometimes less than 23 votes tip the scale in one candidate’s favor)!

So if it’s so important, why don’t more people vote? Well, the answer is crazy complicated but let’s start with the flaws in our voting system. For starters, we don’t have ONE voting authority. This means that each state, county and municipality have their own voting laws and procedures, so how you vote and when, can be completely different than how your primo votes in a neighboring state.

This is where things get tricky! Some people argue that these rules have led to institutional discrimination against minorities. Because, real talk, there are people that don’t want everyone to vote. Why? Some conservatives believe that if everyone voted, they would favor the liberal candidate. On the flip side, some incumbent Democrats think that if there are more voters, their seats will be challenged.

How exactly does this lead to discrimination at the polls?  Latinos have been the prime targets for super troublesome voting rules (remember, each state, county and municipality sets their own rules) like crazy complicated registration and requiring identification like a state issued I.D. or passport. State and local officials have also made it more difficult for minorities to vote by cutting early voting days and reducing voting locations in communities of color.

Why should all of this matter? Not having diverse voters can lead to underrepresentation in our local, state and federal government which means that our community’s needs might not be addressed. While this is an oversimplification of the issues—because nothing is ever black or white—one thing is certain, making your voice heard through your vote is extremely important! So next time there’s a county, state, or federal election, make sure to cast your vote!

Voting is our right and our civic duty; let’s not let a few people make all the big decisions for us! Plus, you can always post an Instagram-worthy picture of your “I voted” sticker.

SOURCES:
http://digg.com/2016/voting-trust-election-machines
http://www.annenbergclassroom.org/speakout/path-to-the-presidency-why-is-it-important-to-vote
https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561066439/facing-discrimination-in-public-life-latinos-stay-positive-about-government

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