Just when you might have thought petition-signing season was over in Flagstaff, there they were again. People standing on downtown corners with clipboards, hoping someone will stop long enough for them to explain what they’re collecting. Only this time, it’s not to get initiatives for higher taxes or legal marijuana included on the ballot. It’s to make sure all residents above the age of 18 are registered to vote in Coconino County. Sure, you may be busy and don’t think you can spare a minute of your time, but listen for just a second before you feed them the default line you’ve been practicing all summer that you’ve already signed their petition.
The deadline for this year’s primary election was July 30, but there’s still time to get on board for the general election before its deadline of Oct. 9. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should put it off though because October will be here before we know it.
Democracy gives citizens a voice in electing the politicians who create laws for better or for worse, and gaining the right to vote was an uphill battle for many. Nearly a century of protest by suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony eventually led to the US Constitution’s 19th Amendment in 1920 which granted American women the right to vote. Minority groups continued to fight against discrimination in voting until the Voting Rights Act was signed into law almost 50 years later in 1965, yet I know too many people who don’t realize how lucky they are to have this right.
I remember speaking with my roommate junior year of college about 2013’s off-year election for which we had both received mail-in ballots. She said she didn’t know anything about the candidates so she just let her dad fill out her ballot with his own choices before she signed it and mailed it in.
During my interview with Otep Shamaya for this week’s cover story, she emphasized the importance of being educated on both sides of issues. While it is encouraging to speak with someone who sees the world the same way you do and can confirm you aren’t, in fact, going crazy and that the current political state truly does resemble more of a trip through the looking glass than actual reality, people shouldn’t confine themselves to these amicable bubbles. In the months leading up to 2016’s contentious presidential election, I saw friends on Facebook getting into heated arguments before deleting the person arguing against their beliefs. The polarizing political environment is certainly frustrating, but by having an airtight understanding of the issues at hand, productive discussions can be had, and we can gain a better understanding of each other’s differing perspectives.
Otep’s partnership with nonprofit organizations Rock the Vote and HeadCount throughout their current tour aims to educate and register young voters. HeadCount has been promoting voter registration and participation in democracy through the power of music since it was founded in 2004 and Rock the Vote was founded in 1990 in response to censorship of hip-hop and rap artists, partnering with MTV to promote the message that “Censorship is Un-American.”
Arts and music are intrinsically linked to politics. Punk bands called out President Reagan’s neoliberal policies with names like Agnostic Front, Reagan Youth and Domino Theory, and it can be difficult to find hip-hop songs without a politically-charged message. Although “Changes” by 2Pac was originally recorded in 1992, the lyrics are just as relevant today: “Instead of war on poverty they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” Even classical compositions were inspired by the political events of the time. Jean Sibelius’s “Finlandia, Op. 26” was written for the Finnish Press Pension Celebration of 1899, a rally in support of freedom of the press.
Following February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead, several survivors stepped into the spotlight as activists in support of gun control. Rock the Vote believes the younger generation has the power to change the messages accepted in the country.
“We are the largest, most diverse generation in American history,” the website reads. “When we come together—across race and gender, family background and ability, sexual orientation and gender identity—we have the strength to determine our own future.”
Help choose what the future of the country will look like. There are 33 Senate seats are up for election in November, not to mention the local races, and every vote counts.