As the 2018 midterm elections approach, as when any election approaches, I think about the obligation we have to vote as citizens. Recently, myself — founder of a civics group called Small and Mighty Acts — and a few self-appointed (and wonderful) interns planned and hosted a “Midterms Are Coming!” event in Boone. The goal of the nonpartisan event was to get people thinking more mindfully about their role as voters, and how they want to prepare themselves before arriving at the polls. At the beginning of the event, I asked participants, “How did you learn about voting?” I opened our discussion by sharing a story:
When I was 7, my mother came home from work one evening in tears. I asked her, “Why are you so sad, Momma?” She explained to me that she hadn’t gotten out of work early enough to make it to the polls to vote in a presidential election; the doors at her precinct had been closed on her at the very last minute. My mother said to me, “Voting is one of the most important things we can do as citizens. It’s our privilege and it is our duty.” She went on to explain how people from marginalized groups, women and people of color in particular, have had to fight for their right to vote in our country. Sensing her dismay, I went into my room. A few minutes later, I emerged from my room with a piece of cardboard. Written on it in marker were the names of the candidates up for election that year, with paper buttons taped beneath them. My mom, my sister and I sat and voted at the dinner table that evening, while watching the results updated in real time on TV.
Today, because I am a privileged human being in some ways — I am educated, I make a comfortable living — and not privileged in others — I’m a black woman living in the United States of America — I am always conscious of the importance of voting. I want to pass on that sense of importance to others, no matter who one votes for.
At our workshop in Boone, there were 16 people in attendance. Most were already registered, but found the parts of the event where we talked about voting histories in North Carolina, and discussed the issues that affect us and bring us to the polls, helpful. There were three people who checked their precincts, as they were not sure which ones were theirs. One person registered to vote for the first time. While our event was small, it was still impactful.
Now, our work is to keep the midterm elections, and the importance of voting, at the forefront of people’s minds. Please take this letter as an invitation to get out and vote. It is a privilege and our duty.
The letter writer, Cara Hagan, is an assistant professor of Dance Studies at Appalachian State University. She is also founder of Small and Mighty Acts, a grassroots civics group in Boone.