In the primary campaign for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton won the primaries in South Carolina, North Carolina and other southern states on the strength of African-American voters. Bernie Sanders looked to Black Lives Matter activists to get the attention of black voters, and has just opened a campaign office in West Baltimore.
The race for U.S. Senate is also counting on black votes, with Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County expected to play important roles. A key demographic of Rep. Donna Edwards’ constituency is African-American women, and like most other candidates, she is making the rounds visiting churches that have large African-American congregations.
Not long after announcing his candidacy for the Senate, Rep. Chris Van Hollen almost immediately began pursuing endorsements from black elected officials in the big three jurisdictions. His advertisements feature District 10 Sen. Delores Kelley and make mention that his children visited Selma, a historic site in the civil rights movement.
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced his support for Van Hollen at the black-owned Colin’s Seafood Grill in the predominately black Randallstown. The Randallstown Community Center, which attracted voters from the surrounding communities, was the number-one early voting center in Maryland for the 2014 primary and general elections. Imagine that!
And we can’t forget the role blacks played in the Governor’s race. In his uphill campaign, Larry Hogan’s ads featured African-Americans lamenting how Democrats have taken them, their most loyal constituency, for granted and that they needed a change.
You can best believe that potential candidates running for Governor in 2018 will be paying lots of attention to African-Americans. It’s already started.
We can’t leave Baltimore City out of this conversation. In campaign ads for Mayor, blacks are front and center mingling and hanging onto the words of businessman David Warnock’s and Elizabeth Embry; they are prominently featured in the ads of African-American candidates also.
My friends, I could go on and on with examples in Maryland and around the country that indeed, black votes count! If just about every campaign recognizes the importance of the black vote, why are African-Americans not leveraging that?
Other groups have figured out how the power of the vote works. The Jewish, Muslim, Hispanic and Greek communities operate as cohesive groups. They invite candidates in to listen to their issues. They share their legislative agenda and obtain a commitment from the candidate on which issues they will support. If they like what they hear, the groups will throw their support behind the candidate, in money and sweat equity, e.g. making calls, knocking on doors, and getting out the vote on Election Day.
If we take a look at the history of our forefathers who formed the Constitution, we find that democracy was a unique concept where people would choose one individual to represent a group. The only difference was that in the 1700s, these men were only thinking about men who looked like them. You had to be white and own land to vote, so even they considered it a privilege to vote. I’m not sure they envisioned what America would become and how we have evolved. Today, you only need to be 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen to vote.
If your vote wasn’t as valuable as it is, there wouldn’t be a movement to suppress your vote. I believe the powers that be recognize that there are more votes against their interests than for their interests. So the trick is to keep you out of the voting booth. They divide and conquer, discourage and dissuade. And the low voter turnout shows that we fall for it.
We have something more valuable than money. We are sitting on untapped power. If you consider your vote like currency, it would be like having millions of dollars and just leaving it the bank for the state to take. Wealthy and powerful people spend millions on the elections. They’re not buying the people, they’re buying the vote.
Let’s use this power, our votes, in the same way other groups do, including the LBGT community, women’s blocs, unions and ethnic groups. Is there any reason why someone can’t find an hour during an eight-day period to visit a location within a couple of miles of their home to cast a vote?
For those who say, my vote doesn’t count? Let me share some facts.
- District 44B, Del. Pat Young edged out Aaron Barnett by 34 votes in the 2014 gubernatorial elections for the General Assembly.
- Ken Oliver edged Julian Jones in the 2010 contest for District 4 County Council by 70 votes.
- Kweisi Mfume lost to Ben Cardin in the U.S. Congress election in by just four percentage points.
My advice to you? Vote based on your research and convictions. How many of our elected officials do you think endorse a candidate for the good of the community vs. for their own good? Before they make an endorsement do they get your thoughts? My point exactly. So, when you go to the booth, you vote you! Bunk the myth by some that certain people in our community tell us how to vote and we blindly follow them. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
The only time one individual is equal another is when you pull that lever to cast your ballot. My vote carries no more weight than your vote and the vote of an elected official or businessperson or CEO carries no more weight than either of our votes. Regardless of whether you’re a homeowner or renter, married or single, or have a high school education or a Ph.D., the weight of each vote is the same, and you only get one.
Early voting starts April 14 and continues through April 21, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; you can you can vote at the Randallstown Community Center, Reisterstown Senior Center and Woodlawn Community Center.
Also, if you want to hear directly from the candidates, unfiltered, and not through someone else’s lens. Stop by the Woodlawn Community Center, on Saturday, April 9, at 1p.m.
I have said a lot, and I have done so from my perspective. Let me hear your thoughts. What do you think? How can we move forward?
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