Why Does Voting Matter? Five Days for Democracy-Day 3

Rocky River Public Library has joined forces with The City Club of Cleveland to invite you to participate in Five Days for Democracy— a week dedicated to exploring what democracy means to you. This year we’re taking a look at how all politics is local: what does local government look like, who represents us, and how can we impact city hall.

Sign up and receive a daily email packed with opportunities to examine different facets of our democracy—from listening to a podcast to watching a video, reading an article or responding to a call to action. Each day pick one challenge and get engaged!

Five days. Five challenges. Five ways to strengthen our democracy.

Sign up to participate at cityclub.org/fivedays

I have had this meme sent to me at least five times. Because my friends know me. They have seen me ask this question of complete strangers, seemingly out of the blue. I am passionate about voting-it’s the only way we have to make our system of government work for us.

If you didn't vote yet, please do!: GME
While I love that first image, this image represents to me WHY it is so important to have conversations about voting.

It is easy to become disillusioned with politics. It’s understandable that people think their vote doesn’t matter. While we have seen increases in the number of eligible voters turning out for big elections, cities and states still often see low engagement for primary elections and local elections. Local elections have the greatest impact on our daily lives and in our communities. Just in case you don’t believe your one vote is all that important, consider these elections:

  • 2016: A Vermont state Senate Democratic primary was determined by a single vote out of more than 7,400 cast.
  • 2016A Wyoming state House GOP primary was decided by just one vote, 583 to 582.
  • 2002: A Connecticut state House seat was determined by one vote out of more than 6,400 cast.

For more close elections, check out this article from NPR: https://www.npr.org/2018/11/03/663709392/why-every-vote-matters-the-elections-decided-by-a-single-vote-or-a-little-more

Voting is a right that many people had to fight for. It is a right that should not be given up so easily. Voting is powerful and participation from all eligible voters is the best way to keep our democracy healthy. If you haven’t already, check your registration status at your local board of elections site and make a plan to be a voter. Your local library can help you find reliable information about the candidates and issues that are on your ballot.

Use your voice. Be a voter.

5 Days for Democracy: Day 2 – What’s on my ballot?

For Day 2 of Five Days for Democracy, we’re looking at how to find out what’s on your ballot!

If you haven’t heard of Five Days for Democracy, the annual challenge run by the City Club of Cleveland, here’s the info: it’s a weeklong deep dive into democracy and what it means to participate in it, and you can sign up here. Each day for a week, you will get an email with videos, articles to read, and other things that will make you think. This year’s theme is how engaging in local politics is as impactful in voting every four years for president.

Voting down the ballot is more important now than ever, but it can be a daunting process to figure out what issues and candidates are actually on your ballot, especially for local elections. Luckily, there is an easy way to find out: Vote 411! Vote 411 is run by the League of Women Voters, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that has been educating voters for over a century.

On the Vote 411 website, click on “Find What’s On Your Ballot” to start, and then enter your street address.

Now you can look at each issue or race, and even click on each candidate to find out more information.* You can look at demographic information and even their stance on particular issues. Plus, you can compare two candidates side by side.

You can also choose to have your ballot summary texted to you, so you remember who to vote for at the polls!

Or if you want to go straight to the source, you can find a PDF of the actual ballot on the Secretary of State’s sample ballot page by selecting your county.

*Note: These sites only work if your area has an election coming up.

For information on past elections, check out Ballotpedia, a nonprofit that is a digital encyclopedia of United States elections and politics.

Check back later this week for more on 5 Days for Democracy!

5Days4Democracy: Protests

Protests are as American as apple pie. Since that December day in 1773 when colonists dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act of 1773, Americans have used protests to make their voices heard and to advocate for change.

Throughout our history peaceful protests, which are protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution, have resulted in significant changes to our laws, our culture, and even our Constitution. Here a few of our most well known protests:

Women’s Suffrage Parade, March 13, 1913

This march, on the eve of President elect Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration, was the first of many large demonstration in favor of giving women the right to vote. It would take another seven years to get the 19th Amendment ratified, which finally gave women the vote, though in practice it was primarily white women who got to vote. It would take another twenty years for Asian-American immigrants to gain suffrage and 45 years for Black American and Native American voter rights to be guaranteed with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While suffrage for all women is now part of the Constitution, women are still waiting for protections under the Equal Rights Amendment of 1923 to be ratified.

We are all familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but did you know that idea for the famous march came from civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph in 1941? Randolph organized a march to protest FDR’s New Deal programs and the exclusion of Black people from post WWII jobs. The march never happened because Roosevelt issued an order to prohibit discrimination in hiring for government and defense jobs. In 1963 Randolph, backed by the NAACP and King, with the support of Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined forces for one large march for jobs and freedom. Their joined forces led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Further protests let to the Voting Rights Act a year later in 1965.

The Stonewall Riot, June 28, 1969

From 1952-1987 homosexuality was listed as a mental illness in the DSM. In the 50’s and 60’s it was not unusual for the police to raid gay bars and harass patrons. When police raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, people had had enough and fought back. Protests lasted for six days and resulted in a more cohesive gay and lesbian community and lead to the development of new gay rights organizations. The one year anniversary was recognized with the first Pride parade. Since the 1990s the Supreme Court has ruled on a number of landmark cases that decriminalized homosexuality, legalizing gay marriage, and recently, making it illegal to fire an employee based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Americans have taken to the streets to protest against wars, nuclear weapons, and tax policies. They have taken to the streets in solidarity. They have marched in favor of science and rights for marginalized communities. They have marched for women and the environment and gun control laws.

Today there are active protests occurring throughout the United States. Citizens have taken to the streets to protest police brutality against Black people. Americans are preparing rallies and marches against evictions and the inclusion of 1619 Project in school curriculums. Citizens are marching for Breonna Taylor, in remembrance of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and in support of the police.

Democracy depends on the participation of citizens. Protests are just one means of participating and advocating for change.