Voting has always been a true action verb for me. I grew up in a political household where family members ran for political office and religion and politics were discussed over cake and coffee during weekend get togethers. The cliché, “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” struck me this weekend as my extended family gathered in Orlando and conversations inevitably circled back to baptizing our newborns cousins under Covid-19 restrictions and the upcoming Presidential election.
As our CEO Sam Sipes pointed out in his Hands of Hope message last week, asking “who are you voting for” can be a trigger for lively conversations and that’s no different for my family. Whether we agree or disagree, we must focus on unity, following the example of late U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia with their strong friendship despite deep ideological differences.
I spent the first 8 years of my career in communications posts for elected officials. We used to joke with each other and say, “talk to people about voting like your job depends on it.” Seriously, I believe that everyone should vote because everyone has an opinion on how taxes should be spent, which laws should be passed, and which leader best represents their voice.
One Sunday night over traditional spaghetti and meatballs, my mom shared a revelation: women didn’t always have the right to vote. SAY WHAT? I spent my early teenage years making sure I didn’t stew in anger. Instead, I became more involved in “get out the vote activities” such as phone banking, delivering yard signs and attending rallies. My first vote with national impact was in the 2000 presidential election.
My thoughts overwhelmed me as I went to the polls that morning alongside my mom. On one hand, I was proud of the ways empowered women brought social change to our country after fighting for their right to vote and ultimately winning through the ratification of the 19th Amendment. However, the amendment was complicated in legacy and reality because it was left unfinished. Despite the contributions of women of color to the suffrage movement, suffrage didn’t happen for them upon its passage in 1920. Black women couldn’t vote unimpeded until nearly 5 decades later.
Close elections happen and a single vote can make a difference. If you don’t think every vote counts, remember the 2000 election when democracy was hanging by a chad. It’s true tens of millions of people voted, but that election was decided, after the recount and the U.S Supreme Court intervention by 537 votes. Your power is in your vote!
To the polls and beyond!
Florida has made changes to voting procedures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that includes mail-in ballots, early voting and corporate partnership to leverage larger polling places. Many of you have already taken advantage and cast your vote. Good for you! Me? I am a sucker for waiting in lines, the sweet sound of a voting machine and of course posting my selfie to social media on election day! I dug up this old Facebook post from Tuesday, November 6, 2012:
“Waited an hour in Hillsborough County at my polling place. High-fived the hot guy wearing a ************* t-shirt on my way out. Got rear-ended returning to DCF causing a three-car pileup. Waited another hour for the cops to arrive. A little inconvenienced. A little sore. But proud to vote, drive and work in the greatest country in the world.”
Florida fun facts
The election is a week away and you may be asking yourself why both candidates and their star quality sidekicks are stumping in the Sunshine State. Florida is always close and takes an enormous effort to win, but the battle is worth winning. Floridians’ chosen winner has prevailed in the last six presidential election cycles. Call us a purple state, a bellwether state – whatever nickname you like, the bottom line is in a state of 21.9 million people with 29 Electoral College Votes up for grabs – your vote matters.
A good friend reminded me that not all family or friends know the boundaries when dinner conversations turn political. She recently hosted a dinner party that left her looking for ways to deescalate the conversation. She distracted them with apple cobbler and vanilla ice cream, but wished she had seen this article on emotional intelligence before her party. It’s worth a read, especially as the race for commander in chief sprints to the finish line.
Today I emphasized why political conversations don’t have to be taboo and why voting matters. Just remember if you do engage with friends and loved ones, I hope Sam’s words “there is significant value in focusing on what unites us” remain at the heart of your dialogue.