In a political era as tumultuous as this one, it's easy to believe that one person's vote can't make a difference. But the truth is it can and voting matters for reasons that extend beyond doing the "right" thing and exercising your "civic duty." In honor of National Voter Registration Day today, we asked young political activists and leaders to explain why exactly it's so important to register to — and then actually get out and — vote.
Jessica Vazquez, Dream Act OklahomaJessica Vazquez
"When I talk to people about registering to vote, they’re like, 'My vote doesn’t count, I’m just one person.' But at the local level, your vote can make a huge impact. Local politics are where you create change for your community; you can have a direct impact on the streets you drive in, on decisions made about your school. If you don’t feel like your vote makes an impact on the federal level, that’s when you start organizing. If you get your whole community registered, you can impact the federal level."
Mary-Pat Hector, National Youth Director of National Action Network (NAN)Marypat Hector
"Some say young people don't care about issues impacting our communities. That can't be any further than the truth. We're tired of waiting for our seat at the table and the past election proves this! The only way we will see change in our political system is if young people become a part of it by exercising their right to vote."
Kat Calvin, Founder, Spread The Vote
"Voter registration has never been more important but if you live in a voter ID state, don't forget that you have to have an ID to vote. These laws target young people specifically. Don't let voter suppression stop your voice from being heard. Get an ID and get to the polls."
Renee Bracey Sherman, Reproductive Justice ActivistRenee Bracey Sherman
"I was raised to believe that voting is one of the most important things I can do as a Black woman is to make my voice heard in the political process. And while I feel that voting is crucial to the democratic process, I sometimes feel disheartened when I see what's happening with gerrymandering and other voter suppression tactics, and I worry that my vote doesn't matter. But then I remind myself, if voting wasn't powerful, why did they spend so much energy and money trying to deny my ancestors the right to the ballot, and currently deny my loved ones access to it today?
It's important to register to vote to not only have your ballots counted in local, state, and presidential elections, but also to be in the pool to serve for juries and grand juries to ensure everyone in this country sees justice. Your voter registration is key to ensuring we hold politicians, police, and the government accountable, and that's a powerful tool. I am proud to be a voter."
Catherine Vaughan, CEO and Co-Founder of FlippableCatherine Vaughn
“When Republicans gain power at the state level, one of the first things they do is threaten voting rights. They make registration and voting harder for young people and people of color. Voting rights continue to be a major battlefield for civil rights -- and the way we fight this battle is by registering and voting for Democrats at the local, state, and national level.”
Helen Brosnan, Executive Director and National Organizer, Rise To RunHelen Brosnan
"For young women in particular, voting is a direct way to exercise agency; to realize we have power even in the face of oppression. On this National Voter Registration Day, I’d encourage people to register to vote with the understanding that political empowerment and personal empowerment are intertwined. Voting is a form of personal currency, especially for women.
At Rise to Run, we often talk about activism and running for office as a real way to fight back to injustice in your community. If that’s considered fighting back, then voting is putting on your gloves and getting ready to jump in the ring. We’re in the middle of a huge fight in Florida to reinstate voting rights for formerly incarcerated folks. Think about that — millions of people stripped of their agency to cast a vote for someone who is supposed to represent their best interest. Today, register to vote, then turn out to vote. If you’re not doing it for yourself, then do it for those who cannot. Our vote is way, way bigger than us."
Nse Ufot, Executive Director of the New Georgia ProjectNse Ufot
America's past is one where a pale, male, stale minority controlled the levers of power and governed without accountability to all of our communities. America's future can be a multiracial, multi-gendered, multi-generational government of, for, and by all of the people. Moving us from MLK Jr.'s dream to reality requires that young people, register, vote, run, and hold leaders accountable before and after they get elected."
National Voter Registration Day is Tuesday, September 26. Register to vote at vote.mtv.com to make your voice heard.