By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
When it comes to voting, sometimes people need a little encouragement. Last week, encouragement came in the form of former president Barack Obama. To a crowd gathered in North Division High School, Obama urged everyone to exercise their right to vote.
Obama was one of many speakers, who took the opportunity to urge Milwaukeeans to vote. On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Wisconsin will be electing a new governor, senator and attorney general among others. In recent elections, voter turnout has begun to decline with more people opting to stay home than visit the polls.
This, perhaps more than any moment in history, is the time for people to come out and vote.
According to Obama, America is at a crossroads. People need to vote, or the consequences will be dire, he said.
“Making this country better has never been easy,” he said.
But when people choose to march and to mobilize, it gives him hope that change is around the corner.
The powerful and the privileged will fight hard to keep what they got, he said. During that fight, they’ll cut down the little man and make it harder to do things like vote. They’ll purge voters instead of changing the policy, Obama said.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
“Don’t boo. Vote,” Obama said. “If you vote things will get better, if you vote in this election it’ll start.”
Voting is the key to changing the lawmakers and changing the policies. Obama endorsed Tammy Baldwin for senator and Tony Evers for governor. The power is in the hands of the voters, he said. It’s up to every eligible citizen to vote and to vote early. When people vote, hope happens, and change happens.
“The biggest threat to our democracy is our own indifference,” Obama said.
Obama, though the best-received speaker that day, wasn’t the only one to tell people to vote.
Congresswoman Gwen Moore chose to encourage people through song. During the rally, Moore invited to the crowd to join her in a ballad she wrote called, “The Scott Kevin Walker Blues.” After the refrain, Moore urged to the crowd to boo and sing along.
It’s time to replace Walker, Moore said. Currently, Moore is the only person to have beaten Walker in an election. She hopes she isn’t the last. “We’re going to replace him [Walker],” she told the crowd.
Karen Mann attended the rally to see Obama and hear the talking points of Baldwin and Lieutenant Governor nominee, Mandela Barnes. She believes Obama’s presence will encourage people to visit the polls.
“I think it’ll be a huge turnout,” she said. “Our community is energized [and] we’re excited.”
Mann said, the 2016 election didn’t get the voter turnout as people expected, and that makes this election even more important. According to Mayor Tom Barrett, during the 2016 election 45,000 fewer people voted in that election compared to 2012.
In the end, those votes made a difference when the results came down to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. He echoed what Obama has been saying all year, “Don’t boo. Vote!”
Representative David Bowen noted the energy of the crowd during the rally. It’s an energy he didn’t feel in 2016. There was a lack of organizing last time and now, a lot of groups including the Democratic party are trying to engage the community. People are ready to put Wisconsin back on the right path, he said.
“We’re going back to our roots, and so I’m glad we’re back in that position,” said Bowen.
Obama is playing a huge role in that by coming to Milwaukee and specifically speaking at North Division High School, Bowen said. It’s a significant place for a lot of black people in Milwaukee.
“You can’t deny the fact of former president Obama coming straight to the grassroots level and connecting with black voters and connecting with Milwaukee voters,” Bowen said, it’s important.
Early voting is available till Sunday, Nov. 4 and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6. To learn more about the ballot and where to vote visit myvote.wi.gov.