There’s no escaping politics these days, whether attending a local not for profit/ community organizing group or keeping up with Congress on the news, the importance of voting in the general election is everywhere. The energy inspired me to make sure I vote via absentee ballot or in person but stay up to date with what’s going on in my own community. Although, I can honestly say I’ve always been this civically engaged. Especially when it comes to community organizing - I was a junior block captain in Philly when I was 13! However, that quickly changed as I became more of a millennial, more into fashion and blogging and of course, social media! And now recent polls have shown that millennials are known for not showing up to vote which translates into statistics that basically mean we don’t care about “democracy.” This recent article published by Business Insider titled, “College students say they can't send in their absentee ballots because they don't know where to buy stamps” is proving to be true for millennials and GenXers at least in Virginia. For those reading who really don’t know, you can buy stamps at the Bodega. However, it’s not the full story. And to keep informed and participating, I went to a free event on Eventbrite hosted by The People's Forum.
During the 3- hour event hosted by organizers of the Poor People’s Campaign, they went over the agenda about changing the narrative for what poor looks like in America. After the group reviewed the data, most of us were not surprised to learn that 140 million Americans are low income or poor, and that number can drastically increase when people’s individual debt is added. This quickly turns into a problem with voting because a lot of the people in these demographics don’t have the time to deal with the system; they are focused on surviving, paying bills, providing for family. It goes far beyond access to the internet when the system doesn’t even rely on the internet to actually work. For example, the fact that I had to print out and manually fill in my absentee ballot, to be eligible to vote is archaic. Has Congress heard of type form?
As I listened passionately to the woes of the Poor People Campaign (founded by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968) , I wanted to relate, and I did relate. To the community, I explained the tedious process of registering to vote in the state of New York after being a resident for five years. Also, all my ids were expired so a government state ID was the quickest way to register to vote in New York. However, to get an ID, it requires five forms of identification, including a birth certificate or social security card, passport, a utility bill, a debit card, another piece of mail postmarked 90 days, a credit card, a pay stub among other documents. These documents were really hard for me to gather. Blockchain should be considered for this verification process, seriously. At the last moment before the DMV attendant dismissed me, I threw a piece of plastic aka a credit card under the DMV reception desk, separated by a glass window. I was elated to have even qualified! Ahhhh, I would finally be registered to vote in New York. But in retrospect, it’s no wonder many people don’t have a state ID and aren’t registered to vote. If we can vote for the next American Idol on our cell phones, why can’t our elections do the same?
This conversation is TBC, however, if you’re interested in voting for the General Election next month on November 6, 2018, here are a few things you need to know.
You have to be 18 years of age to vote, duh.
You have to be registered to vote at least 30 days before an election. If you have a state id or driver’s license, you should be automatically registered to vote in states like Pennsylvania and New York.
If you are traveling or out of the country, you have to apply for your absentee ballot (view here ASAP) by mail, then wait for your actual ballot to be sent to you like a week before the election. You must then, send your ballot back to your country before…
If you live internationally, you can still vote!
The rules to vote are different by the state when it comes to parole, jail, etc. In some states like Florida, you can’t vote if you’ve been a convicted felon. However, in California you can still vote if you have a record, but not currently going through jail time.
You can only vote in one state. In other words, don’t stuff the ballot box. If you have a driver’s license in one state, and a regular ID in another, chose where you are going to vote.
In many states, your John Handcock or your signature makes legitimizes you and your vote. Make it count.