Monday, June 8, 2015

GOTV: An Acronym We Take For Granted

I never expected my first blog post with the Chamber to involve comparing Mexico elections and Roanoke elections. However, being in the middle of two timely Election Days (one yesterday, one tomorrow) I felt compelled.

Yesterday, amid intense violence and protests at the polls, Mexico held their 2015 mid-term elections and for the first time in history there were Independent candidates allowed on the ballot -- one of those Independent candidates (Jaime Rodriguez) is expected to win a major upset victory. The changes to their voting procedures stem from a 2014 constitutional reform that many hoped would create avenues to plurality and true democracy. As Mexico’s government continues to be plagued by corruption and scandal, leadership in Mexico City saw this reform as an opportunity to enhance transparency and opportunity in the voting process. However, as opportunity for voters and candidates grew, so did the grip violence has on Mexico.

In the recent weeks leading up to yesterday’s election, Mexico has been witness to:

  • 8 candidates assassinated
  • Over 30 kidnapped citizens 
  • 1 campaign aide killed
  • Over 20 murders associated with the elections
But candidates did not back down out of fear and voters swarmed the polls. 

While staggering, these numbers are not novel to Mexican politics and it's important to note that the U.S. is not far removed from our own bout with violence in the voting process. Just a few months ago we honored 50 years since the sacrifices by “Bloody Sunday” protesters in Alabama.  The resiliency of civil rights leaders to march in the face of violence and prejudice did send a message to our country and the ripple effect lead to the landmark Voting Rights Act – an act some labeled as the crown jewel of Civil Rights legislation. 

When you consider the sacrifices made for our "crown jewel" legislation and sacrifices candidates and voters made in Mexico yesterday--it's disappointing to think we take voting for granted in the U.S.  Projections for tomorrow's Primary in Virginia's 17th House District:

  • We can only expect about 8% (high projection) in tomorrow's primary
  • That means only 4400 of 55,000 voters in VA17 will vote--again a high projection
  • In the last Roanoke County Primary only 656 of 67,189 registered voters cast ballots
  • Tomorrow's Primary will cost the county around $18,000 to ensure a fluid voting process
  • Primary turnout in 2014 was worst since WWII
The numbers above are concerning, especially given the sacrifices made for all citizens of the U.S. to vote. Understandably, voter enthusiasm is down because of the hyperpartisan atmosphere in Washington but it cannot deter us from exercising one of the greatest rights granted to us as U.S. citizens -- too many have fought for that right and too many continue to fight for that right across the globe.
If you live in Virginia's 17th House District and are interested in voting in tomorrow's Primary, I encourage you to do so and tell a friend. Because GOTV (Get Out The Vote) is not an acronym we can take for granted. 

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting. –Franklin D. Roosevelt

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