Because Black Votes Matter.

AuthorWiggins-Chavis, Linda

I was a nonvoter for twenty-five years because I believed the lie that my vote didn't matter.

I am fifty-five years old and previously a nonvoter. My history of voting is short; I've done it only four times in my life--once in my twenties and then not again until I was fifty-one. The first time I voted in a presidential election was in 2020.

I knew nothing about the process the first time I voted. I went to the polls to choose a mayor, but I was not expecting a ballot with candidates for other races, along with various amendments and referendums. I had no idea what to do. And unfortunately, after selecting a mayoral candidate, I just voted for the other candidates randomly.

The process not only intimidated me, I also felt embarrassed and irresponsible for voting for people and issues I knew nothing about. I didn't pay much attention to politics back then, so I didn't research the candidates or the issues. I did what I thought I was supposed to do: simply vote, and that was enough. The whole experience was discouraging.

Although that incident only heightened the disinterest I had in politics, the main reason I became a nonvoter was because I was influenced by the lie that my vote didn't matter--a lie that Black people are consistently told in this country, and one that many of us have bought into. So, for the next twenty-five years, I didn't vote.

I didn't understand the importance of voting for local issues in midterm elections, and I believed that every presidential election was predetermined by corporations, rich lobbyists (especially the Koch brothers), and the Electoral College, regardless of the outcome of the popular vote. The Bush v. Gore election debacle in 2000 solidified my beliefs. My political stance, which I fervently defended, was to be apolitical, to withhold my vote in protest.

While it is true that corporations and lobbyists do have a huge impact on elections, and issues with the Electoral College still need to be addressed, I underestimated the power of the people. My greatest stumbling block was not knowing the full history of how and why voting rights for Black Americans have continuously been under attack since the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870. I didn't grasp how voter suppression began as a backlash against the political and economic power that Black people were gaining during Reconstruction, and how it has persisted for the past 152 years.

During those years of being a nonvoter, I became an...

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