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In the Rio Grande Valley, only one in four people vote in presidential elections. That number drops during midterm elections and is even lower for state and local elections.

It’s no wonder people think their votes don’t matter when less than 25 percent of the population shows up to make the decisions for the other 75 percent.

So how do we get more people to want to register to vote? And then, how do we help them learn enough about at least one candidate? Finally, how do we encourage them to go to the polls and vote?

In my experience of registering voters in the Rio Grande Valley, the best answer I have is that we need to empower and awaken people. We need to show them their voice matters when they cast their ballot. We have to remind those who have stepped away from civic engagement how powerful their voice is.

It is a privilege to vote. Ask your undocumented loved ones, friends, and neighbors who pay taxes, work hard, and, yet, cannot vote. Ask your transgender friend whose chosen name does not match their birth certificate, therefore, barring them from registering to vote with their chosen name. They are counting on us to vote in their best interest.

Here’s one example of how we can protect our communities by electing the right people into office. In 2017, Texas Congress attempted to pass more than 15 anti-LGBTQ bills. All but one was voted down. Those who helped in that fight were not only the hard-working equality activists, but the state representatives who fought hard for days on the floor of the House and Senate against these anti-LGBTQ bills. State representatives are directly elected by the population they serve.

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It is way past time for us to continue to let less than 25 percent of our population to control the elections. Enough complaining about the state of affairs on Facebook. Enough of simply bashing imperfect politicians. Enough sitting by and watching our community transform right before our eyes because people in Austin or D.C. have no idea what life is like for us on the border.

If we continue to stay home every election season because “the politicians suck,” “I don’t care about politics,” or “our votes don’t count,” things will not change.

We can’t expect change until we become an active part in the electoral process. We have to elect people who represent us and who vote in favor of our communities on important issues.

It’s time to get registered, it’s time to register everyone you know, and it’s time to get to the election booths. We must vote on the local, state, and federal level.

We are running out of time. We must vote.

Deadline to register to vote is October 9.
Early vote starts October 22.
Election day is November 6.

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Amanda Elise is based in McAllen, Texas, and participates with various groups who are affiliated with the Democratic Party.

This post was published under Neta’s “Community Voices,” a space for community members of the Rio Grande Valley to publish stories, opinions, information, and ideas. Posts in this section solely reflect the views of the authors. To read more from Community Voices, click here.

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