By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Before we consider what lies ahead in the new year, I think it is important to reflect on where we have been and where we am presently. It has been 47 years since the historic Voting Rights Act (where we have been) and Wisconsin currently has the most restrictive Voter ID Law in the nation (where we are). In 2008, we elected the first African-American President of the United States; now, he is facing reelection in what is sure to be one of the most contested presidential elections in modern history. Yes, we have made significant achievements, but 2011 presented us with new issues (and some old ones) that we must surmount – the only way to do that is to commit to voting consistently in every election this year.
Voting is one of the important and rewarding duties we have as citizens. One of America ’s founding principles is that it is to be a government of the people. The only way that can be accomplished is if every individual who is eligible exercises their right to vote.
The November 2010 elections brought historic losses for the Democratic Party; those losses became all too real in 2011 as Republicans launched an attack on middle- class Wisconsin and America. But 2012 presents nothing but opportunity and leaves no room for voter apathy in the black community. By exercising your right to vote, you can be a part of the historical effort to reclaim Wisconsin, to reelect President Obama, and reclaim the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Simply put, these times are too important to not express yourself and raise your voice through voting.
Elections also enable you to hold your elected officials accountable. There are many responsibilities that come with being elected to office, the primary one being doing the people’s work. But the people, YOU, also have a responsibility. It is imperative that you follow your officials. Make sure they are fighting for the programs and policies your communities need. Make sure they are protecting your communities’ interests and doing what needs to be done in order to improve it. Furthermore, by exercising your right to vote, you are doing more than honoring the sacrifices of those who came before you. You are also helping to elevate your community by electing those who will pursue issues that are important to you and those around you.
I encourage everyone to look toward 2012 with optimism because we have the opportunity to build a better future. The key to taking advantage of this opportunity is staying informed and getting involved. If you create New Year’s resolutions, then add a new item to that list: voting in every election. If making resolutions is not your custom, then make a commitment to yourself to become more active in your community. More than anything, I hope your new year brings you many blessings and faith in your ability to be the change you want to see in the world.