I am issuing a challenge to citizens of Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District. Let's lead the nation in voter participation. Our campaign is committed to registering anyone to vote who wants to vote, independent of political affiliation. I want each eligible voter to vote, even if their ballot is not cast in my favor.
Voting is a fundamental right for American citizens. It is how each of us gives voice to our values, and how we assert ourselves politically.
Voting is not simply an act of individual self-assertion. It is also an act of social cooperation. When we vote, we collaborate with our neighbors towards the construction of a better government, and thus, better communities. As philosopher Charles Taylor puts it, “Democracy is a collective effort with a noble goal— inclusion.” A disturbing trend is emerging which is endangering the success of representative government—democratic nonparticipation.
Last year's divisive presidential election cycle marked a twenty year low in voter turnout. The Pew Research Center ranked the U.S. 31st out of 35 countries for voter turnout based on the voting age populace, among the mostly democratic nations that are a part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In 2016, 86.8 percent of America’s eligible voters were registered to vote. Unfortunately, only 55.7 percent of registered voters actually cast ballots.
Midterm election turnouts are even lower. The 2014 midterm election turnout was the lowest in 72 years. Only 36.4% of eligible voters cast ballots. The last time midterm election turnouts were this low was during World War II, when millions of American troops were engaged in military combat throughout the world.
Democratic enthusiasm is waning. Would be voters are becoming dispassionate political onlookers. Many voters have little personal investment into who we elect to office, because elected officials seem to have little invested in those with the power to elect.
The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission allows those with outsized pocketbooks to have an outsized influence on campaigns and public policy. The clandestine manipulation of lawmakers has become an entire industry. Back room deals, dark money, and cronyism pervade politics.
Instead of people picking their politicians, politicians often pick their voters through gerrymandering. Efforts have even been made to target specific voter groups and suppress the impact of their collective political voice.
Political ideologues hijack political discourse and attempt to shoehorn their worldview into law, irrespective of the collateral damage done to our country or their own constituents. Obstructionists who refuse to collaborate, selfishly work to stifle progress at the expense of the American people. Many politicians prioritize their ideologies above the individuals they are called to serve.
As tempting as it may be to disengage politically, we must assert ourselves by voting, now more than ever. Whether you consider yourself Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, a member of the Green Party, or an Independent, we have a collective responsibility to exercise the most fundamental tenet of democracy: voting.
The singular aim of representative democracy is to dispense political authority equitably among all citizens; not just among politicians, not just among the wealthy. We, the citizens of America, are our nation's best, most effective system of checks and balances.
As I work to be your representative in Congress, it is important that I listen to, and take seriously the concerns of each potential voter. I want to hear you. My candidacy is still early, but before I ask you to trust me as your representative, I want to let every voter know that I trust you. I trust your intelligence and your ability to tune out bitter and divisive partisan arguments, and make rational choices about what is best for you and your family. I trust your moral judgment and your commitment to treating your neighbor as you would want to be treated. I trust your sense of justice, and your compassion for society's most vulnerable.
Above all, I trust that you will vote, even if it is not for me.