By Contributor, Christina Merriweather

There are many people who have little faith in the voting process.  This skepticism is valid with a well-documented history of intentional disenfranchisement and voter suppression of marginalized groups in this country.

But the truth remains…voting DOES matter.

Local laws, taxes, educational funding and school district lines are determined by the votes we cast. As we prepare to vote in one of the most important presidential elections of our time, it’s important to not get caught up in the media blitzes and mud slinging that inevitably accompanies the election season. We must focus on the real issues that impact our daily lives. The impact of ignorance can harm us both socially and financially. We have a responsibility to do  our research. 

Find out not only who the candidates and their positions on policies that impact your community. Not sure where to start? Below are three issues impacting your wallet that you should care about during this year’s election.

Healthcare 

The state of healthcare has always been a hot topic but as we continue to weather the storm of COVID it’s become even more so, as many Americans stand at risk for hospitalization. Epidemiologists predict a second wave of infection and we are seeing a significant spike in infection rates. American citizens are at risk of losing their jobs and subsequently their health insurance. We need to advocate for policies and plans from our leaders that will make healthcare affordable to all. This is where your vote comes in. Your vote could literally make the difference between you and your family having access to full insurance coverage or being forced to choose between feeding your families or paying a hospital bill. 

Economic Mobility & Opportunity

If you think your vote can’t impact opportunities for job growth as well as other economic circumstances in your community, think again. A perfect example of this was in 2019 when U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), made the bold decision to oppose online retail giant Amazon moving a 2nd headquarters location to Long Island City, NY. According to numerous news reports, the company was being offered huge financial incentives including tax breaks to settle there.

While on the surface, this may have looked like good news, especially when you think of the opportunities for job growth in the area, many New Yorkers, including Ocasio-Cortez, took issue with using public subsidies to lure technology companies to the city and potentially changing the demographics in the surrounding neighborhoods (read gentrification) and pricing people out of their homes and communities. Eventually the deal caved and the people of Long Island City were able to hold on to their beloved neighborhoods. 

Now whether or not you agreed with the decision or not, you can’t deny that the power of your vote and who you elect into office to represent your interests can go a long way in ensuring that your voice is heard. Imagine if the people who were elected to represent you didn’t reflect your interests. 

School Funding

Have you ever wondered why there seems to be extreme differences in the resources available in your neighborhood schools as opposed to the schools across town or even, in some cases, across the street? You guessed it. Those are your tax dollars at work and your local elected officials such as school board members and city council members determine how and where those dollars are utilized. If these positions are up for election, be sure to check out the platforms of these candidates, ask the tough questions, and demand accountability because the quality of your local school districts can impact everything from the quality of education your children receive to the resale value of your property. 

One of my favorite quotes about politics in society comes from Plato, “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” 

This November, no matter what your political views are, I hope that we can all agree that representation matters. Your voice matters. Your vote matters. Be counted.

*Featured image by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash

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