October 14 is the last day to register to vote!
If you think there is no excitement about this election in Long Island’s communities of color, you need to come out with me to register voters. I have spent the summer and fall pounding the pavement daily—often under the hot sun—talking to new potential voters. This may not be the way most college students would think to spend their vacation, but for me, every day I went out made me feel like I could be a change agent in my community.
As a black woman, I’ve always been bothered by the vast disparity in communities that look like me. Challenges in our communities range from income inequality to inferior schools tomass incarceration. The decades-long neglect of our communities brings long-lasting consequences, often making my neighbors, friends, and family feel left out and insignificant.The frustration of being left out of the process, coupled with fear-mongering politicians’ attempts to blame us for status quo, can make anyone tune out and forget that voting matters.
But what I’ve shared with potential voters in my community this year is simple: voter registration is the first step we take in being able to fully participate in our democratic process. It’s the first step to becoming a voter who will have a say in what happens on the important issues we care about and be able to hold those we elect accountable. Without being registered, we cannot use our voice at the polls to demand we be treated with respect and dignity, to demand equal access to resources, ending the over-criminalization of our youth and school-to-prison pipeline, or creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Every day, when I am out with my team at the Long Island Civic Engagement Table, we get to talk to scores of people. I hear about their concerns, what issues they’re considering as Election Day approaches. Of course, I hear apathy from some, but I also hear about the power of the vote and the need for people of color and immigrants to be represented at all levels of government—this year, the presidential election is foremost in their minds, but they’re also thinking about Congressional and State Senate races that often have even more of an impact on our communities.
Long Island becomes more and more diverse every year, yet we lack government representation that reflects our changing communities. The folks in our community see this disconnect—and they want to see it fixed in the years to come.
The more I spoke to Long Island voters this year, the more it became clear to me that people in my communities know that we cannot afford to sit this one out. Immigrants and working-class communities of color hold the power to determine who will be making critical decisions in Washington and Albany. It is time we begin to use this power.
For those who have not registered yet, the deadline in New York is October 14th. Register today, and join the thousands on Long Island who have stepped forward to become full participants in our democracy and demand respect and dignity for our communities.
Shadley Hobour is the Long Island Civic Engagement Table Summer Voter Outreach Fellow.