Election Day: The Power of Black Women Running
By Na’Tasha Jones
Why Your Vote is for Black Women Across the Country
Many hugely important decisions (and decision makers) will be decided on November 6. With voter suppression reaching new heights, more than ever, your vote as a Black woman is needed.
In recent years, Black women have proven to be a political force when it comes to voting, especially for the Democratic party. Ninety-four percent of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election and 98 percent voted for Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race last year. This year, Black women are already energizing voters to get to the polls for both early voting and the election on Nov. 6. In fact, Karen Attiah, global opinions editor for the Washington Post called Black women “the ideal American voters.” She continues in her January article, “We mobilize our families, our churches and our friends to exercise our democratic rights.”
“Black women are realizing the power of their vote and of their influence,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “It’s taken what we are dealing with on a national level, I think, to really get us energized and not taking anything for granted, but I do think we are recognizing and exercising our power in a way that we’ve never done before, and that’s exciting.”
The Power of Black Women’s Votes
In a January 2018 Vox article, Kimberly Peeler-Allen, the co-founder of Higher Heights for America, a national organization that works to get more black women involved in politics and elected to office, noted that “black women have become an especially influential wing of the party, and their high voting rates have proved to be the difference in several recent contests.”
This influence was especially seen in the 2017 Alabama Senate race, when Black women’s votes directly helped secure the win for Senator Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore, and ended a 25-year losing streak for Democrats in the state.
In a recent interview with Black Enterprise, political commentator and analyst Angela Rye explains what she feels is at stake in this 2018 election for Black women:
“I think that everything is at stake. One of the biggest mistakes that we make is making it seem like this one election matters more than all of the rest. Every single one of the elections we can ever vote in matters this much. One of the worst things that we can do is wait for things to get as bad as they’ve gotten to engage in the process.
So, what I would tell Black women is, when you look at the record number of women running for office this year. There are 444 black women who are running for office in the midterms. That number could be so much higher. And wouldn’t it be even more incredible if they could win?! And they can win if we exercise our voting power. We are electable. We are powerful. Every time we decide to stand together we do matter and we do count. And I would say that’s the first step; really believing that and acting.”
Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) echoes Rye’s sentiments about the power of Black women’s votes and notes that it is not something to be taken for granted. “The question is not who [Black women] will vote for. The question is how many will vote. The [Democratic] party and too many candidates have stopped at the beginning of that equation,” she said in the aforementioned Vox article.
Why Does This Election Matter?
Political observers on both sides of the spectrum are calling on people to go out and vote, because this could be the most important election in our lifetimes, if not in U.S. history. While 2018 is not a presidential election year, this election is still hugely important! There are many federal, state, and local races happening, including:
All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives (who make and pass federal laws)
One-third of all U.S. senators (who write and pass laws, approve many presidential appointments and ratify treaties with other countries). See which senators are up for re-election or plan to leave office.
Thirty-six state governors and three U.S. territory governors (who control state government budgeting, appoint many officials, including many judges, and play a considerable role in legislation). See which states have elections for governor this year.
Many city mayors (who oversee a city's main departments, including the police, fire, education, and housing and transportation. In short, a mayor is the elected CEO of a city). See which cities have mayoral elections this year.
Why We’re Voting
RUNGRL’s goal is to support and further the health and wellness of Black women. But how can a woman focus on physical wellness when dealing with the weight of lower wages or living in poverty, the trauma and effects of police violence, poor access to health and reproductive care, the villainization of Black children—all things directly affected by issues that are voted on in each and every election?
Below, the founders of RUNGRL each share their personal reasons for getting out and voting, in hopes that their words may inspire others to get out there and “Run for Everybody Black”.
I’m voting in this and every election because I feel I have a duty to exercise this right that so many have fought and died for. There was a time not long ago when being Black (and a woman!) excluded us from the polls. This midterm is too critical to just sit on the sidelines while the laws that impact our rights on health, community, civil and human rights are on the table.
I vote because it's a privilege and my voice should be heard. I have very strong opinions on laws and statutes in both my local district and at the federal level. Voting for those candidates that will protect those beliefs and ideals while in office matter to me, because these issues directly impact my career, my personal life and future overall.
As someone who previously shied away from voting because I never really understood how my “one vote” would matter, I can understand some people’s hesitation to get out and vote, particularly after the 2016 election. Yet, I can no longer ignore the sacrifice that was made by so many Black women and men to further the cause of voting rights for African Americans. I can also no longer ignore how hard the government is working to disenfranchise Black voters. As Angela Rye recently told a group of Howard University students during a segment called Cannon’s Class, “Should We Vote?”, “If your vote doesn’t matter, why are they working so hard to keep it from you?” It’s something that must be done.
I vote because it's too costly not to do so. As Black Americans, we have been conditioned to believe our voices and votes don't matter, that they won’t change anything. This is the farthest from the truth. The right to vote is a privilege that some don't have but that many of us choose not to exercise out of ignorance or protest. Failing to use a ballot to advance the issues and support the people that can make changes for you and your community is not an act of defiance, it is giving in to the status quo. Wild change may not happen overnight, but having your say moves the needle that much closer to a better future for you and generations to come!
I’m voting because I want to be able to tell my children and grandchildren that I played a role in ensuring a better present and brighter future. Black women have always been on the right side of history and despite the barriers we face for being both Black and women, I still believe that my voice matters. With an amendment that will further voter suppression up for a vote in my home state of North Carolina, I can’t risk not casting a ballot.
I have vivid memories of Diddy and the VOTE or DIE campaign from the 2004 election. As a first time voter then, I was incredibly removed from the power and urgency that comes with casting a vote as an American citizen. In 2018, for the first time, “VOTE or DIE” has real meaning for me. In our current political landscape, the implications of every last vote are too great to be taken lightly.
As a resident and registered voter in the District of Columbia, I’m acutely aware of the fact that D.C. has no representation in Congress, but that doesn’t mean that my vote doesn’t matter. There are still many issues being decided in this election that directly affect my community, so I’m heading to the polls on Nov. 6th and encouraging those, especially in high stakes races, to the polls and let our collective voices be heard.
Grab that voter registration and your ID and RUN to vote this Tuesday--for the culture, for the kids and for your sisters.
Registered to vote but don’t know where to begin? Start here at BlackWomenVote.com to get election info, find your polling place, see who’s on the ballot and more.
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