Reducing the number of days to vote early. Requiring a photo ID, then charging a fee for that ID. Eliminating polling precincts in majority-African American counties. These are merely a few of the ongoing efforts to obstruct the path to cast a vote – perhaps the single most powerful act of freedom in our democracy.
My mother, Coretta Scott King, once said “struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really one. You earn it and win it in every generation.” Twelve years after she left this world, modern voter suppression proves her right.
If my mother were still alive, she would be troubled by what the Supreme Court decision to permit the gutting the Voting Rights Act, a law drenched in the blood and sacrifice of civil rights martyrs. She would be disturbed by the measures that voter suppressors take to stop minorities from casting their ballots. And she would call on each and every Georgian to vote early, to vote absentee, or to vote by mail. Why? Because we can.
And because we can, we must.
I know that the idea of voting by mail makes some voters nervous. Voting early may seem like a small and insignificant gesture compared to the heroism of our ancestors, who fought to make that vote possible. Yet, casting your ballot immediately – well before Election Day – is the safest and easiest way to guarantee that your vote will be counted and your voice will be heard.
Our parents and our grandparents fought for this right. Some were beaten and bloodied. Others literally sacrificed their lives. Now, it’s up to us to exercise it. At a time when powerful interests are trying to silence us, nothing is more powerful than people of good will participating in the process and lifting each other up. Now is when we must step up. Our state has enormous promise and potential. Many are doing just fine. But too many are left out and left behind. The number of Georgians without health insurance continues to rise. While a large majority of states across the country have expanded Medicaid for their residents, more than 500,000 Georgians who would qualify for insurance cannot receive the proper health care because our elected officials refuse to expand access to Medicaid.
This failure to act is nothing short of an intentional decision to endanger the lives of our families, our friends and our neighbors. This same inaction has created an educational failure that disproportionally harms our most vulnerable young people, as many of Georgia’s children don’t have the same dreams for a bright future as children across the country because they live in a state where access to quality education is largely determined by a family’s income or zip code.
I have hope we can build a better Georgia, a Georgia where no one is left out or left behind. We’re on the verge of a transformation of Georgia’s values from the bottom up. That transformation requires your contribution – it requires your vote.
States can be the laboratories of democracy or the laboratories of oppression: some of the nation’s harshest laws came not from the federal government or the president, they came from the states. The Jim Crow laws that my father vigorously fought against were not federal laws – they were state and local laws that legalized segregation and voter intimidation.
Despite the obstacles that lie ahead of us, we have the power to alter the course of Georgia’s future. We have the opportunity to make our contribution to the freedom struggle by voting early, voting by mail, and electing leaders in our state who care about all of our voices, all of our children, and all of our futures.
I ask you not to wait until November 6th to vote. Vote early. Vote today. Vote now. The struggle for freedom demands our presence and our democracy demands our voices.