One of the most outspoken voices in the entertainment industry this election season has been Janelle Monae. Earlier this year, the singer-songwriter, and actress shared her voting story for When We All Vote, an nonpartisan organization focused on registering people to vote. Monae, who was picked by Michelle Obama to co-chair the organization, shared her story about her grandmother who was a sharecropper and how her life inspired her to always practice her right to vote.
With only a couple of weeks left before election night on November 6, Monae wants to reiterate the importance of voting and spoke about the insidious ways her home state is preventing over 100,000 people from voting.
“My grandmother could not vote. My aunts and uncles could not vote at one time, and I made a promise to them that whenever I had the opportunity to have a say in our democracy, I would go to the polls in their honor and in my ancestor’s honor,” Monae told ESSENCE.
Having a personal relationship with Michelle Obama, whom Monae refers to as her “forever first lady,” made it an easy decision for her to partner with Obama on When We All Vote. Monae said they both grew up in in working class families where their parents helped provide for them. And although getting people out to vote is their singular goal, Monae wanted to remind everyone that When We All Vote is a non-partisan organization.
“Our goal isn’t to tell you who to vote for, but making sure that you understand what it means when you don’t exercise your voice, and if you don’t vote for folks who share your similar vision, what kind of country you can end up living in,” she said. “It’s important that we get the awareness out and make people understand that midterm elections are just as important as putting in an actual president.”
Even though there has been a major push to get people out and vote this midterm election, there will always be those individuals who still think their vote doesn’t count for much, and will opt out of voting. But Monae tends to think there’s a reason why people share these attitudes.
“There are two big reasons why folks are not voting in the midterm elections, one, they don’t see a reflection of themselves, people that look like them, who reflect their values. Also, some don’t understand how the midterm elections work. Some don’t know how local officials are nominated, what their actual jobs are, and how they help this country in general,” she said.
And just as there are plenty of people who don’t vote out of their own free will, there are also forces in play that are preventing people from being able to vote. As a resident of Georgia, Monae takes issue with the recent voter purge that has been happening, and the drastically high number of Black voters who aren’t able to vote after the state purged over 100,000 votes because of the “use it or lose it” voting laws that are in place.
“The purging of voters here in Georgia is evil, and I think it’s flat out wrong. We have to continue to keep making people aware. My job as co-chair, as an American, as a woman whose ancestors helped build this country, is to continue to encourage everybody to check to make sure that they’re registered. Make sure you’re not one of the voters who’ve been purged,” Monae stated.
Monae also encourages everyone to practice early voting, because if you find out you’re not registered during early voting, you can still submit a provisional ballot. Monae also said if your vote is challenged, ask questions and challenge the answers you receive.
“Don’t assume you’re registered, let’s just make sure you’re not part of the voting purge number. We’re continuing to spread the word about those who are in that number. The only way can find out is by doing our due diligence and do the responsible thing and go out and find out if you’re registered in Georgia,” she said.