In this country money and votes matter. These two factors determine whether or not the people elected to represent us will listen to us. We may or may not have the money to be heard but many of us do have the right to vote and that scares some people.

No one tries to steal or take anything unless it has value and yet for generations a lot of effort has been put into to taking our right to vote away from us. Different strategies are used to confuse us, distract us, or prevent us from voting. At some point we have to start asking, “Why?”

Here is why.

Every single election matters and the people elected or appointed by elected officials have a lot of power.

When you register to vote and participate in elections, you play a critical role in preserving our democracy. Visit our Vote Center for more information about voting in Ohio and your rights.

Prosecutors, judges, council people, mayors, senators, representatives, and the people who run our prisons and education systems make decisions that impact our lives, our children’s lives, and grandchildren’s lives. They decide what is criminal and what isn’t, what is fair and what isn’t, how our children will be educated and disciplined in schools, how our communities are policed, and how our elders will live the last years of their lives.

If we want to have a jury of our peers, if we want to get rid of judges and prosecutors that treat us unfairly, sentence us more harshly and commit us to die in prison, we have to vote. If we want to stop paying the salaries of people who are not representing us or our best interests and replace them with people who will, we need to be registered voters.

If we want our communities to look like the communities of those who vote, we need to vote.

Yes, these officials have power but we forget that we have the power to elect and educate them.

We need to vote not only because people died so that we can, but because we are dying a slow death every day. We die from disproportionate health disparities and toxins in our communities. We die from the humiliation of over-criminalization, systemically imposed debt and underemployment.

In Assata Shakur’s poem, To My People she closed with the lines, ”It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

We must use every tool at our disposal to assert that our lives matter, including civic engagement. When we don’t, we become silent accomplices in our own oppression. We are better than that!