Ah, fall. This time of year brings cooler weathers, overly-sweet flavored coffees, football, school and sweaters. This year is also an election year, so we are also treated to countless TV ads and chatter about what’s happening (or not) in Washington. Off year elections are an entirely different beast from presidential years. Turnout is much lower, the electorate is much older and less diverse in off years. For people like me who live and breathe politics, voting is a no-brainer, and I will vote in every single election, all the way down to my local advisory neighborhood commissioner. But I realize that not everyone is like me, and people lead very busy lives and maybe don’t have the time to read up on everything that is happening in politics. It is also very easy to get discouraged with the political process. It seems like the only thing that is coming out of Washington is gridlock, rancor and a disappointing football team. But there is a lot at stake this election. Control of the Senate hangs in the balance, and your vote could very well be the key to that.
There’s a lot going on in the world. We are engaged in a battle against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. People in the US are (needlessly in my opinion) freaking out about an Ebola outbreak here, while thousands are dead or dying in West Africa where an outbreak is truly underway. And here at home, our politics seem as awful as ever. All of this provides a nice cover for the forces out there that are trying to undermine the election by either pouring in millions of dollars into local races or fighting to put up as many barriers to casting a ballot as possible.
If you’ve read any of my previous columns around voting, you know that I’m fairly passionate about it and that nothing gets me angrier than people who don’t vote or people who stand in the way of others voting. This year, as in past years, groups like Americans For Prosperity—heavily funded by the Koch Brothers—have been pushing all types of voter suppression tactics at the state level, from restrictive voter ID laws to cancelling early voting and same day registration. All this in the name of tackling “voter fraud”—an issue that truly doesn’t exist in this country.
The reality is that conservatives have a vested interest in keep people of color and young people away from the polls. I’ll let this republican Georgia state senator say it best. This was the reaction of Sen. Fran Millar to the announcement of an early voting location in a predominantly African American neighborhood: “I would prefer more educated voters than a greater increase in the number of voters. If you don’t believe this is an efort [SIC] to maximize Democratic votes pure and simple, then you are not a realist. This is a partisan stunt and I hope it can be stopped.”
You have to admire his honesty, I guess. He’s just putting into words what’s really behind many of these efforts. Regardless of where you fall on the ideological spectrum it’s important to make sure your voice is heard and that no matter what, you get to the polls. What people like the Koch Brothers hope is that you become discouraged, disenchanted and disgusted and decide that your vote doesn’t matter. They do things like send out fraudulent voter guides in North Carolina. They hope you won’t show up so they can continue to push their agenda of fighting against efforts to increase the minimum wage and fighting for more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
For some of you, early voting has already started. For the rest of you, you have just a few days before Election Day. Now is the time to learn about those local races and get educated on the issues. And for those who live in a state where the senate seat is also up, understand how important your vote is. Vote, tell your friends and family to vote, and make sure they follow thru. Don’t let the Koch Brothers of the world win.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Senior Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123