A Ballet of Ballots

Another first Tuesday of November has come and passed.  Atlanta was abuzz with hundreds of races for mayorships, reforms, creation of new cities, etc.  And while this is certainly not the first time I’ve visited the polls, a new excitement to vote was.

We are taught early the value of the vote.  We learn how our forefathers died to give us the vote and create a land of democracy.  We also learned that sentiment didn’t actually stretch across the canvas on which they were so colorfully painted.  Women weren’t allowed to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.  And that’s only white women.  If you were an African American your voting rights were sabatoged through literacy tests, property ownership requirements, false imprisonments, etc.  It wasn’t until 1965 that President Lyndon B Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act aboloshing such tactics.

We learn about different types of votes: local, state, federal elections; taxes and reform; importance of demographics.  That last one is where I got hit.  I, as I hope most of us who’ve passed fifth grade, have always understood the importance of knowing your audience.  The first key demographic I ever learned about was Age.  In seventh grade I was taught that senior citizens are the most valued in elections, because they a) are the most likely to vote (something about being wiser than us whipper snappers sitting in the classroom) and b) are the largest demographic to vote (Hello, GIs – Baby Boomers!).

Somewhere between demographic requirements, the Electoral College, and just being a sophmoric-barely-legal-adult, I figured the most responsible practice would be to opt out.  If I didn’t know for what or whom I was voting I didn’t feel I had any place in the booth.  Plus, I’m from such a big city, I’m so young that my voice doesn’t matter, and the list of excuses goes on.  But my vote does count and I’d like to share with you some “fun facts” that helped change my perception:

  • Millennials now number 83.1 million and represent more than 25% of the nation’s population
    • Their size exceeds that of the 75.4 million baby boomers 
    • 44.2 % are part of a minority race or ethnic group
  • Of the 5,170,388 registered to vote in GA, only 2,593,555 voted
  • Of the above voters in GA
    • over 54% are female
      •  across the board of demographics women surpass men in registering to vote and actually voting
      • of these female votes, 33% are African American female votes
  • The voting-eligibility population of black women in GA has increased by 10.3% since 2010 (that’s 113,000 more votes!)
  • Black women voters are more likely to register AND vote in GA & NC than white women
  • Women of color (all women who are non-Hispanic White) are the fastest growing
  • There are only 10 states in the USA where there are more men in the population than women

Amazing how all this time I looked at myself and thought I didn’t make up enough to count, when really my sex and generation are the ones who are now in a position of political sway.

So take some time to learn what issues are coming up and how they affect you.  Find out what you want to say and then don’t be afraid to use your voice.  Go to a town hall meeting, campaign rally, and a get-to-know-the-candidate happy hour.  But as you are enjoying finding yourself on the political spectrum, please, vote responsibly.

Sources:

US Census Bureau

American Progress

Politico Magazine

Democracy Corps

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