OPINION: Whatever happens, never forgo your right to vote

Voters line up at Park Tavern in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Voters waited outside polling places Tuesday morning to be among the first to cast their votes on a crucial Election Day. Even before Election Day, 3.9 million Georgians had already cast early or absentee ballots. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
Voters line up at Park Tavern in Atlanta on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Voters waited outside polling places Tuesday morning to be among the first to cast their votes on a crucial Election Day. Even before Election Day, 3.9 million Georgians had already cast early or absentee ballots. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

No matter the outcome of the 2020 election, life will go on.

So far, predictions about post-election chaos haven’t come true. President Donald Trump, however, has already vowed to take this fight to the Supreme Court.

How sad.

I’d hoped the polarization we’ve witnessed the past few years would begin to dissipate and we’d once again come together for the common good of all of us — whether we have four more years of Donald Trump or the first female vice president in American history.

The good news is record numbers of us turned out to exercise that most sacred right to vote. I feel good about that and you should, too.

Too many folk fought, bled and died for us, Black Americans in particular, to do otherwise.

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I think that’s why I still find it so hard for me to believe that, according to a Knight Foundation survey released early this year, so many of us Americans don’t even bother.

“The 100 Million Project,” the largest survey of chronic nonvoters in history, found that nearly 100 million eligible Americans in 2016 did not cast a vote for president, representing 43% of the eligible voting-age population.

Michael Adams, 54, of Stockbridge was among those who didn’t vote for president that year. So was, I learned recently, NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who said he voted this year for the first time in his life.

Adams, a self-described lifelong Democrat and descendant of American chattel slavery, made the hard decision to again vote down ballot only.

“Voting is an exchange not a Gift,” Adams said, explaining his decision. “And although I enjoyed a 22-year military career and (am) presently employed during COVID-19, that can’t be said for the majority of people who look like me.”

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Interestingly, Adams hails from a family with a long tradition of voting. He has been a registered voter since age 18. His two daughters are regular voters. He said, however, he could support neither Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden nor Trump because they have done little to address issues important to the Black community.

“Black Americans have been pushed to the edge of an economic cliff without reparations and specific policies directed at our people and communities,” Adams said. “The likelihood of our survival in one of the richest countries in the world is bleak.”

Michael Adams of Stockbridge opted to vote down ballot only. (Courtesy of Michael Adams)
Michael Adams of Stockbridge opted to vote down ballot only. (Courtesy of Michael Adams)

Credit: Photo courtesy of Michael Adams

Credit: Photo courtesy of Michael Adams

But that’s exactly why Black people, in particular, can’t afford not to vote — even partially.

I think Mike Fasano, a former Florida House majority leader who is white and sat out the last election, might know what I’m talking about.

In television interviews recently, Fasano, a lifelong Republican, said that he voted down ballot in 2016 because, like Adams, he didn’t like his choices. But unlike Adams, he has since regretted that decision, saying “our president is an embarrassment to our country, to my party, the Republican Party.”

He decided this year to vote for all Republicans on the ballot — except for president, in which case he’s casting his ballot in favor of Biden.

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To his credit, Adams continues to vote, albeit only in local and state elections. That’s a good thing.

There’s no doubt in my mind local and state elections are just as important to the well-being of our communities as national ones. Maybe even more so.

Whether we’re electing state senators and House representatives or governors, attorneys general, or secretaries of state, local and state elected officials play a critical role in determining how equitable life at home will be.

District attorneys, for instance, determine what cases, charges, and sentences to pursue or drop. Elected judges influence and sometimes determine the outcome of court proceedings.

Here in Georgia, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and the General Assembly have remained under Republican control since the 2004 elections. I know a lot of people who are counting on Georgians to vote down ballot and change that.

I mentioned the Knight Foundation’s “The 100 Million Project." There was a lot about the study I found striking. Here are just a couple of things:

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.
Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays.

The average chronic nonvoter is a married, nonreligious white woman between 56 and 73 who works full time but makes less than $50,000 a year.

That’s the first thing.

The second is nonvoters are an eclectic bunch with distinctive blocs supporting Democrats and Republicans but don’t show up to cast their ballots. They feel alienated from a political system they find corrupt and irrelevant.

And third, these blocs are so large that when a campaign manages to motivate even a portion of one, it can swing an election. Think of Trump busting through the “blue wall” in the Great Lakes region in 2016 and Barack Obama flipping Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia in 2008.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that how these blocs did or didn’t vote on Nov. 3 could also decide the 2020 presidential election.

Those down-ballot voters like Adams will have also played a big role.

You have to wonder if things might look different had they voted up and down the ticket.

What’s clear is no matter the times, all of us have a role to play because voting isn’t just about politics. It’s about the future of our Democracy.

With prayer and supplication, it could change the trajectory of history and lift all of us.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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