Mr. Gerrymandering is worried that you’ll actually exercise your right to cast a ballot. Let’s keep him scared.
Recently at a rally, the President of these currently United States called himself a “Nationalist.” White, was implied. The stomp of his followers may be deadened by the whine and duck-honk squeak of all those rubber-soled sneakers, but the goosesteps will be the same when they fall into sloppy formation. This is indeed the Upsidedown. The Big Sad. The Dark Days.
When I can get vertical, to push against gravity and perform the simplest of red-blooded American tasks, I ride waves of unmitigated heartbreak: the constant surveillance of black people, the possibility that my trans friends and all their comrades will be rendered invisible in the eyes of the government and subsequently deemed unhuman and erased from the annals of human rights. I worry that the 7,000 people walking to the U.S. border will be turned away, by force.
A Brief and Harrowing History of Our Voting Rights
My Big Sad began with the undoing of The Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down a key provision in Shelby County v. Holder. Chief Justice Roberts said that it was no longer necessary to ensure equality in voting, since the number of black registrants and white registrants was nearly equal everywhere, including Alabama, the birthplace where the Voting Rights Act was forged.
The battle in 1965 between peaceful protesters and good ‘ol Southern aggression led by Alabama State Troopers is know in modern U.S. history as Bloody Sunday. Touched off by the murder of unarmed black activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by the hands and bullets of Alabama State Troopers in February of that year, Hosea Williams and John Lewis — then a 21-year-old student and the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) — attempted to march from Selma to Montgomery on March 7.
They were stopped by Governor Wallace, and his troops. Marchers were trampled, teargassed, beaten, and attacked with water canons and bullets. Reverend James Reeb died as a result of police action that day.
Eight days later, President Lyndon Johnson addressed Congress saying, “Their cause must be our cause, too.” On March 21, 1965, 3,200 people peacefully marched, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., across the Edmond Pettus Bridge, embarking on a 54-mile walk from Selma to Montgomery, over the course of five days. By the time they arrived in Montgomery, they were 25,000 people strong.
Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, ending legal restrictions that barred black voters from going to the polls. If you didn’t already know this history, I’m gonna go ahead and say — you should have. (Ava DuVernay’s harrowing film Selma and John Lewis’ graphic novel March are excellent places to start.)
As soon as the ruling was struck down, Alabama began instituting new ways to stop not just black folks, but anyone else considered marginalized from voting using new tactics, like enacting the Voter ID Law, purging voter rolls, requiring proof-of-citizenship requirements to vote, failing to inform felons of their voting reenfranchisement status, and slicing up voting districts by ethnicity and income.
Maybe now it’s clear what we lost when we said nothing as the Voting Rights Act was dismantled.
Be Here, Now.
Mr. Gerrymandering has always been your neighbor, but now, he’d like to clearcut the trees in your yard so you forget where you live. Now he’s worried that you’ll actually exercise your right to cast a ballot — if you can get off the couch and stay vertical long enough to vote.
When I can’t get vertical, I watch TV. (I’m currently addicted to 9-1-1, but that’s another story.) I’ve been quite pleased with the unveiling of the 13th Doctor on Doctor Who, played by Jodie Whittaker, and recently watched episode three. On that episode, the TARDIS time machine took us to Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955, a few days before she refused to give up her seat. I was relieved that, thanks to Noughts & Crosses author Malorie Blackman (you better believe this episode was co-written by a black woman, the first time in Doctor Who history), this white woman did not swoop in — intergalactic white-savior style — to save the day for Mrs. Parks.
What the Doctor did do was “nudge it.” The Doctor battled the villain, not by “empowering” Rosa Park, but by supporting the perfect conditions for dissent. And dissent, Rosa Parks did. History had already been written, but that didn’t mean small changes couldn’t make an impact.
This got me thinking about how we’re living in the eye of a dumpster fire right now, and perhaps, all we have to do to shift the narrative is “nudge it,” and by that I mean vote.
(No, that’s not ALL we have to do — we have to educate ourselves, fight for our fellow humans, visit some people’s Venmo and PayPal accounts, and get relentless about stomping out the systems that uphold white supremacy. But if you’re not actively doing any of that, voting on November 6th — or casting an early vote, or voting by absentee ballot — is a good way to start nudging the long arc of the moral universe a little closer towards justice.)
What’s amazing is that there are so many worthy candidates running for just about every level of political service, from a seat on your city council in your town, to judge to Senator in your state. You don’t have to vote for “the lesser of two evils” on November 6th. There are 435 seats in the House up for grabs, 35 Senate seats, and 36 gubernatorial races—not to mention all of the local races at stake.
You have the opportunity to vote for candidates you believe in, choose the legislation you wish to champion, and protect those you love, all with your vote.
Calling this a voter guide is a little deceptive. All the political races that affect us most acutely, most immediately, and seemingly most imperceptibly, are local. There’s no way to cover all the electoral races that are happening in the United States on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 (set an alarm, add the date to your Google calendar). But hopefully, this information will get you excited about “nudging.”
Maybe you know who you’re voting for in the big races, like for House and Senate. If you live in Texas, probably no one has to beg you to vote for the most “woke” white man running, Beto O’Rourke. But what about all those judges?! Save yourself the guilt of skipping candidates or trying to read the extremely small print of those bond issues by grabbing a sample ballot for the election in your city.
(In most cases, you can view and print your city’s sample ballot online. Although watch out for incorrect sample ballots, as in the case of St. Louis County, which distributed over 300,000 incorrect sample ballots due to a “print error.” Uh-huh.)
And maybe don’t bother to find a sample ballot buried on the Georgia voter webpage. The Georgia NAACP is filing a lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) over the 53,000 voter registrations forms submitted by majority black voters on hold. Apparently, there’s palpable fear that people will actually participate in the glory of civic duty. Kemp — who is also running for Governor — was caught on a hot mic expressing his worry about the persistent success of the campaign of Stacey Abrams, who he’s running against. “It continues to concern us,” he said, “especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
As of eight days ago, Abrams and Kemp were nearly tied in their race for governor.
Speaking of Stacey Abrams, the Georgia gubernatorial candidate would become the nation’s first black woman governor is she wins on November 6th. If you are a resident of the state of Georgia, you could be part and parcel of the — potential — blue wave that could crash upon its shores.
If you’re eligible to vote in Florida, keen to help make American history — or interested in tackling climate change, gun reform, prison reform, and expanded health care for all — you may want to cast a vote for Andrew Gillum for governor. As a bonus, he called out the blatant racism of his opponent, Ron DeSantis. Go ahead and bask this sick burn while DeSantis grinds his teeth to a fine powder.
American history can be made in Minnesota as well by voting for the first Muslim congresswoman in history — meet Ilhan Omar, who just won the democratic primary; if you’re registered to vote in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, and you want health care for all, a fair and just immigration system, and economic justice for working families, get out there and support her.
And soon enough — fingers crossed — your autocorrect will learn the name of Deb Haaland from New Mexico. If she wins, Haaland will become the first Native American (Laguna Pueblo) woman to hold a seat in Congress. And for Haaland? It’s personal. It’s time to bring the fight to Washington, to stop the fossil fuel industry from fracking under her ancestral homeland Chaco Canyon. (Haaland also champions education, tax reform, and gender equality.)
If you’re looking to queer up the vote, The New York Times reports that there are more than 430 LGBTQIA candidates running for office across the nation, and more than 200 have advanced from the primaries to November’s midterms.
The community platform Them has a beautiful and robust data map that allows you to search queer rights, legislation, and protections — by state or by policies — and includes a 2018 midterms voter’s guide. If you live in Vermont, you could vote for the first trans candidate for governor of a major party — Christine Hallquist — who is taking on the opiate crisis in her state, as well as universal health care, civil rights, and racial justice.
Or…maybe you wish the United States had a three-party system? Well it won’t unless you start voting and engaging in two-party discourse; there are at least a baker’s dozen of candidates running as Democratic Socialists.
Kaniela Saito Ing — who supports affordable housing and tuition-free college among other people-centric issues — is running for a congressional seat in District 1 in Hawaii. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Democratic Socialist, Julia Salazar, beat incumbent Senator Martin Dilan for the nomination in the 18th district amid a hotbed of controversy surrounding her “immigrant, working-class background.”
More than 430 LGBTQIA candidates are running for office across the nation, and more than 200 have advanced from the primaries to November’s midterms. Click To Tweet
Also in New York, socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is running for Congress in the 14th district, having won the Democratic primary in June. She’s also the only candidate running a 100% people-powered race. No PAC money whatsoever.
Perhaps the most critical voting, however, will occur in the states where fat-cat, GOP incumbents are standing on shaking ground. Democrats need to flip 24 seats in the House of Representatives to take back the House. Swing Left is a great resource for identifying the swing districts in your state where your vote could make the difference in how your daily life is governed.
And let’s not forget that midterms are just the beginning of the paradigm shift. If you’re looking for a 2019 campaign to support, start sinking your latte money into Kalyn Rose Heffernan’s mayoral campaign. Born and raised in Denver, and the front person for the internationally acclaimed band, Wheelchair Sports Camp, Kalyn’s “fix this shit” laundry list is long, and the list starts with access for all.
And of course, meet President Kamala Devi Harris, 2020. Okay, the California Senator has not declared that she’s running, but she hasn’t ruled it out, either.
If you thought voting didn’t matter too much before, you might have been a little bit right. However, these midterms are different. These midterms could birth a whole new universe, and hopefully tip the Upsidedown right side up again. It’s like a supernova, poised on the cusp of galactic splendor, but it needs our collective energy to explode it.
On November 6th, 1572, German astronomer Wolfgang Schüler observed the “new star” Cassiopeia — a ruby red supernova — as it erupted in space. Often attributed to the more famous Danish astronomer, Tycho Brahe, this celestial event was visible by the naked eye.
In truth, it doesn’t matter who sees it first; we all just need to look to the vast opportunity right before our eyes in five days. When we vote on November 6th, 2018, we’re not wasting our time, our vote, or our lives. We’re part of a global event on the only planet we can currently call home.
Get vertical. Get relentless. Go vote.