It’s Not Just Who You Vote For, It’s How

By Josiah Mabry

September 21st, 2020

In the political world, social media, and other various platforms in the U.S., there has been a debate amongst under-represented groups regarding the value of their vote. For minorities, reasons of apathy can be understood given the historical adversity they have dealt with. But if these disenfranchised groups lose agency in their voting power, could the nation’s future plunge towards a “worst-case scenario”? Every vote does indeed count. Not only is it imperative for whom you vote for, but also when you vote.

    The general public oftentimes overlook the number of elected positions besides the Presidency. All elected officials have the power to apply change where it is needed. Time sensitive voting periods for local and state representatives are critical for positions such as:

  • Mayor
  • State and Trial Judges
  • Governor
  • State Legislature
  • Commissioner’s Court (Harris County’s Legislative body)

These elected officials hold the power to fix many local problems underserved communities are facing today. For example, if minorities vote for more representatives reflective of their community, it would incentivize impartial sentences and enhance court proceedings for marginalized people. 

    Some people of color believe that voting is ineffective because of the country’s continued indifference towards the trials and tribulations they face. In 2018, Texas’s 16th congressional district’s Democrat Beto O’Rourke ran up against Republican Senator Ted Cruz for Texas’s Senate position. While O’Rourke was very close in turning the tide against the Republican candidate, he came up short overall. According to an article from Keri Blakinger, O’Rourke’s loss was still a net benefit. His defeat in the Senate race led to a major change in our city. O’Rourke brought forth a new wave of energized Democratic voters that helped contribute to the cities’ criminal justice system by adding 59 new judges recently in 2020. “Some new judges have changed longstanding courtroom culture, ending the shackling of juveniles and fining prosecutors for withholding evidence” (Blakinger). In 2019, Harris County made history as it found itself with 17 new African American women judges (this also being inspired by the 2018 O’Rourke Senate run). (Schneider) When you have representatives like that, that does not come often in positions such as those, you give hope to people that look like them. “This cycle, Harris County also saw record numbers of Hispanic American, Asian American, and LGBT candidates. And the more such candidates win, the more it encourages younger people of diverse backgrounds to believe they can do the same” (Schneider). Action is necessary to create change in our communities. 

     For an alternative perspective on the issue, The Herald interviewed Kaiman Dukes, a student at Texas Southern University, about how he feels about voting.

     “It’s important we exercise a right that was once restricted to people like us,” Dukes says. “I can understand people not wanting to vote for the current presidential candidates, but if we had to choose who’s better and who’s not, I think we know exactly what we have to do. If people don’t want to vote in that area, they can vote somewhere else that can create some type of change. If voting wasn’t as important as some people say it isn’t, why would they ever keep us from doing it in the first place? I plan to exercise the rights my ancestors fought for, and I hope my fellow people will do the same.”

     The 2018 Senate election exemplifies the capability of a unified vote, the likes of which cannot be underestimated. If similar reverence and unity is demonstrated this election cycle, ideas of change can come to fruition.  

Sources

Blakinger, Keri. “The Beto Effect: Transforming Houston’s Criminal Justice System”. The Marshall Project, 2020, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2020/02/25/the-beto-effect-transforming-houston-s-criminal-justice-system.

Schneider, Andrew. “Meet The Judges Of Harris County “Black Girl Magic” | Houston Public Media”. Houston Public Media, 2020, https://www.houstonpublicmedia.org/articles/news/in-depth/2019/01/15/317832/meet-the-judges-of-black-girl-magic/.