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It’s Tuesday. Oct. 21, Day Two of Early Voting in Texas, and I am at Lion’s Field, where the senior citizens who faithfully work the polls greet me each time elections roll around in San Antonio.
It’s a tradition and a pleasure. It makes me feel proud to be an American, land of the free and home of the brave. Laugh if you will, but I have worked in countries where people lived in fear every day of their waking lives, where the liberty to vote in free and fair elections was beyond grasp. I will never forget that and I will always vote.
Why aren’t you voting?
Please excuse the presumptive tone of my question, but the truth is, most of you are not going to vote. It’s a fact: The majority of Americans, including the majority of eligible San Antonio residents, do not exercise their right to vote. Sure, half of you, sometimes 60% of you, vote in a Presidential election. The rest of the time? Most of you watch from the sidelines. By the time we get down to school board and City Council elections, we are talking 10-20% of eligible voters showing up.
Why aren’t you voting?
Apathy cuts across party, socio-economic, gender, age, race, and ethnicity lines. Indifference, complacency and cynicism know no boundaries. Still, the less education, the less income, the less perceived stake in the system, the less likely an individual will vote. Actually, the less likely they even register to vote.
We live in a Red State, one of the reddest states in the United States. Yet we also live in a state where a voting majority could flip the switch overnight and turn Texas blue. The key to that flip of the switch in San Antonio and statewide is the adult Hispanic population, the so-called “sleeping giant.” It’s Mexican-American dominant, overwhelmingly Democratic, yet highly unlikely to vote except in Presidential elections and rare individual races with a special attraction candidate or issue.
Because Texas is Red instead of Blue, because extremely conservative Republicans have a stranglehold on state government, here are some facts working-class minorities who do not vote should consider:
- There will be less spending on public health initiatives in Texas because you do not vote.
- There will be less spending on public education in Texas because you do not vote.
- There will be less spending on environmental protections, including enforcement of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, because you do not vote.
- There will be less access to family planning services for women, including access to counseling, birth control, and abortion, because you do not vote.
- There will be fewer women elected to public office, including the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s office, because you do not vote.
- There will be less money spent on protecting children against child abuse because you do not vote.
- There will be less money from the windfall of billions of dollars in state tax revenues spent on communities in South Texas where infrastructure has been overwhelmed by activity in the Eagle Ford Shale Play.
I ask again: why aren’t you voting?
I know some of the reasons: Right-wing politicians and conservative media have demonized you, questioned your citizenship, demanded that you be made to show photo ID, gerrymandered districts, and in general, done everything they can to disenfranchise you as voters.
All the more reason to vote and fight back.
The abuse heaped on Latinos cannot be used as an excuse by Millennials who posture that “the system sucks” and it doesn’t make any difference, so they opt out and do not participate. Opting in and voting makes an enormous difference. I’ve listed some of the reasons why above.
For those who failed to register by last week, it’s too late. However, f you register now, you will be eligible to vote in the important City of San Antonio elections on May 9. For those who are registered already, you have ample time to vote early or to go to the polls on Nov. 4.
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In my next article, I’ll take a closer look at the race between Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and his challenger, former District 10 City Councilmember Carlton Soules. No local race matters more than this one if you are committed to building a better city for Millennials.
Until then, please think about the question this article poses: Why aren’t you voting? I’d like to hear from you, and from those of you joining me at the polls: Why are you voting?
*Featured/top images: Lion’s Field covered in candidate signs. Photo by Robert Rivard.