Editor’s Note: During the 8th annual Women’s History Month conference at UTEP, Women’s Intercultural Center executive director Mary Carter helped lead a lecture called “Women, Power and Politics: Enhancing Learning Outcomes through Information Literacy and Community Engagement.” Throughout her profession, she required exceptional skills in working with city officials and advocating for the rights of underserved communities. Carter’s lecture left a strong message that young community members must be active in their city government in order to create the changes they want to see. Because of this, we invited her to be our guest columnist for this week’s issue to talk about the importance of voting in elections such as the one that’s approaching on May 6.
The ugly fact about the state of Texas is that a great number of people young and old do not exercise their right to vote, particularly when it comes to mayoral races. According to a study conducted by Portland State University in January 2017, we lack a healthy democracy: “The results show that in most cities, few people vote in mayoral elections, and those who do vote tend to be older and more affluent than the population at large and less likely to be people of color. This raises important questions about social justice and public policy related to local elections.”
In the most recent mayoral election in the city of El Paso 11.6 percent of individuals age 59 voted, turnout for young adults ages 18 to 35 was 4 percent while 30.6 percent were adults ages 65 and up. Each voter speaks for themselves and 25 other members of their community which include family members under the age of 18 and friends who are residents or are undocumented. Not casting a vote not only affects you, it affects those 25 people that count on you to be their voice.
Why are they silenced? Because in politics, people who don’t vote don’t count as much as those who do.
“I didn’t vote because it won’t make a difference,” is what a large number of the Millennials I encounter through my work at the Women’s Intercultural Center tell me. Yet, in not voting, they are ceding decisions for their future on the older more affluent population.
Every day, local elected officials in the City of El Paso make important and influential decisions about core services like police and fire, drinking water, economic development and roads and public transportation. When voter turnout is low, a small percentage of residents influence policy choices that can have a positive or negative impact in the life of the city’s residents. That means YOU!
Voting is the most powerful tool a U.S. and Naturalized Citizen is granted. Don’t squander it. Look at the areas throughout the city and notice the differences. The side of town with good schools, paved and clean roads are places that have high voter turnout. The places that have bad schools and broken down roads are most likely areas where people don’t vote. Voting makes your voice heard and gives you the power to help transform and improve your community. Make a difference, become a person of influence. Vote in your upcoming mayoral election.