Vote Your Values, Fight for Your Rights

It's never been more important to cast a ballot.

Following a radical Supreme Court term that had a devastating impact on abortion access, the separation of church and state, immigrants’ rights, privacy and more, it’s easy to feel powerless.

But we can still fight for our rights – starting in our own communities – at the ballot box.

You’re going to hear a lot of people and organizations tell you to “get out and vote” between now and Nov. 8. (And if you don’t want to wait – or if you’d prefer to skip the lines on Election Day, early/absentee voting has already started in South Dakota.) But it’s never been more important to cast your ballot.

Now, if you think your vote doesn’t matter, I hear you. In any given election, between 35 and 60 percent of eligible voters don’t cast a ballot, according to the MIT Election Data & Science Lab. It’s not that hard to understand why. The decision to carve out the time to vote requires a sense of motivation that’s sometimes hard to muster every two or four years, whether it be a lack of enthusiasm about the candidates, belief in the importance of voting itself or the sense that anything can change as the result of a single vote.

But we do have power in our vote. Some politicians would not be working so hard to stop us from voting if it did not give us power. In recent years, the ACLU has tracked more than 400 anti-voter bills that have been introduced in 48 states. These bills erect unnecessary barriers for people to register to vote, vote by mail or vote in person and disproportionately impact people of color, students, the elderly and people with disabilities.

Voting is definitely worth the effort.

The decisions made in city halls, state legislatures, the United States Congress and every other level of government affect the lives of all of us. Elected officials up and down the ballot have a direct impact on key civil liberties and civil rights issues. Politicians are attacking abortion, limiting how and when we vote, erasing transgender youth from public life and censoring what we learn. If you want the country to move ahead a certain way and you want it to respect the freedoms you value, then you have to make sure that the people who are making those decisions are the people you trust.

Some elected officials have already shown us that they will do whatever is in their power to continue rolling back our rights. Let’s send a clear message that the power is in our hands and that we will use our votes and voices to create the better world we know is possible. We can demand better from our elected officials and vote them out of office if they refuse to listen. We can care for others and get involved in our communities to make life better and more just for those around us. When we are voters, we are the ones who drive our communities and country forward.

Elections matter. And the elections this November could affect the course of our country and our democracy for decades to come. So make a plan to vote. Then, connect with your friends and family to urge them to fight for their rights by voting, too. Many competitive elections are decided by only a handful of votes or by fractions of a percent. Our rights are on the ballot this year, so we can’t leave any votes on the table by not reminding friends and family to vote.


This year has shown just how much change is needed, but the change will not come without us showing up. You have the power to change this country. Pledge to vote for your values, and join us in this battle to protect our country.

As voters, we have the power to define what freedom looks like and who gets access to it. We can create communities where we all can live with safety, dignity and joy. But when we don’t vote, we let others decide what freedom looks like and who gets to be free.

Elected officials don’t have the final say when it comes to our rights – we do.

A version of this column also appeared in the Pierre Capital Journal.