Since the 2000 elections, when I was first awakened to the fight for voting rights, I’ve come to realize the importance of National Voter Registration Day as a civic duty, and a means to proactively combat the divisive aims and effects of voter suppression. Steeped in oppressive roots, voter suppression laws and tactics continue to undermine democracy in the United States. Since January 2013, 15 states have introduced bills that make it harder to vote, particularly for people of color and the economically disadvantaged.
Marginalized poor and minority communities are seen as outcasts in the political landscape. Through the collective voice and protections offered by labor unions, young workers and millennials are standing together with other Americans to claim their basic right to vote. Single-handedly, none of these groups can win the overwhelming fight to maintain the voting rights our ancestors fought and died for. But through persistent, proactive collaboration, working people can ensure the civil rights of everyone in the United States are protected.
As young workers, we can’t afford to operate in individual silos, solely dedicated to our specific issues and causes. To make our voices and votes count, we must become more inclusive in our struggles. Young people are part of the communities that have become disenfranchised because of the recent voter suppression tactics, such as voter identification laws, restrictions to voter registration drives and cutting back early voting. It’s time for young labor activists, students and young community stakeholders to build lasting relationships; bonds that transform local campaigns, growing communities and the evolving American electorate.
This Tuesday, in partnership with students and young community members, young unionists will be hosting National Voter Registration Day events, registering people across the country to vote. And Michiganders will host National Voter Registration Day actions across the state: from Lake Michigan to Lake Erie; in plants and at worksites; from shopping centers to farmers’ markets; and in college dorms and rec centers. While this day of action is an exciting opportunity, it is just a starting point. In order to create the change we want to see, registering our fellow citizens cannot be a one-time event.
Your efforts to engage your friends and neighbors don’t have to end when you put down your clipboard on Tuesday. Accept my challenge to connect with a community group that works on voters' rights and education. Identify five friends who aren’t registered to vote and have them begin the process. Continued action builds a movement. Young workers must continue to move forward, ensuring that each and every eligible U.S. citizen is registered and empowered to vote.