Why YWCA Cambridge Votes

“The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”
-John Lewis

Intro written by: Hallie Tosher, Board Member

As we head into the 2020 election season, YWCA Cambridge members and staff share why voting is important to each of them.  

The right to vote is so powerful that people have always been working to erode it, such as by closing polling locations and limiting early voting, often disproportionately impacting people of color. Now that we are all in the middle of a pandemic, we have an opportunity to leverage voting by mail, however, that is being threatened as well. Although Massachusetts saw a higher voter turnout in the last midterm elections than in any other year, voter turnout is still low. Nationwide, the U.S. trails most other developed countries in voting with only 56% of the U.S. voting-age population voting in the 2016 presidential election, for example. 

Voting is an essential civic duty, so here are a few reasons why YWCA Cambridge votes. 

“My vote impacts how I live, ensures representation, allows me to support what’s important to me and those I care about, and has been (heavily)fought (and died) for. Out of respect for my past, present and future, I vote.” -LeNay Harper, Director of Housing and Shelter Services 

“I vote because I have an opportunity to put words into action. I can help elect leaders who will fight for just and effective policies at both the national and local level. My vote isn’t just for me, it’s for people I know and people I don’t know. Not voting has consequences. Even though leaders and policies are never perfect, I can help move my community forward by exercising my right to vote.” -Hallie Tosher, Board Member

“I vote, because it’s important in a participatory democracy that everyone’s voices be heard. It is only by collectively raising our individual voices can meaningful and transformative systemic change be permanently undertaken.” -Theodora Skeadas, Board Chair 

“I vote because my voice matters. Every person matters and they deserve to be heard at the ballot box. I vote because people like the late great John Lewis and others shed blood and died so all of us can vote. We carry that legacy of voting rights every time we exercise our right to vote.” – Elizabeth Baldwin, Board Member 

‘I vote because my foremothers and forefathers were denied the right to do so. I want to be heard not just for me, but for us.” -Cleola Payne, Board Member

“I vote because our ancestors fought for the right to vote and put their lives on the line for me and all women and people of color to have the privilege and the duty to voice our choices and be heard. I am able to vote because they made it possible and I honor the sacrifices that they made for all of us” -Eva Martin Blythe, Executive Director

“I vote because I believe in democracy, I am aware that black people have not had the right to vote in the past, and I want to be a part of change.” – Carmyn Polk, Board Member 

“I vote because we need better representations for people of color. It is the easiest form of activism and the best way to have your voice heard. I vote for John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, & Martin Luther King Jr. I vote to protect women’s rights to their bodies, prison reform, quality affordable housing, and so much more. “ -Whitney Mooney, Fund Development Manager 

“My high school government teacher always said “if you don’t vote, you don’t count” – so I like to exercise my right to vote to ensure that I will always have a voice.”  -Miyako Takashima, Board Member 

“I vote in order to hold my local and national lawmakers accountable for their actions. And to ensure officials and lawmakers put the needs of families, frontline workers, and community organizations before big corporations and the upper class.” – Puja Kranz-Howe, GOLD Program Coordinator 

“I vote because my people fought and died for their right to vote. I take pride in voting, and being engaged and active in my community. Black lives matter now and always.” -Ayesha Wilson, Board Member, Cambridge School Committee Member

“I vote because it makes me feel like I have a voice. Voting is deceptively simple, and the decision of who you vote for also forces you to re-examine what and who you care about and how you can protect those interests in your city, state, and country.”  -Marina Zhavoronkova, Board Member

Resources:
Get text alerts for important voting dates, polling locations, etc: 
TurboVote
Register to Vote in MA: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ovr/
Request your Vote By Mail Ballot: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleev/early-voting-by-mail.htm

Primary Election

Deadline to Register to Vote: Sat, Aug 22, 2020 8:00PM EDT
Deadline to Request Mail in Ballot: Wed, Aug 26, 2020 12:00PM EDT
Primary Election Day:   Tuesday, September 1, 2020
(ballots must be received, not postmarked, by 8pm)

General Election

Deadline to Register to Vote in the General Election: Saturday, October 24, 2020
Deadline to Request a Mail in Ballot: Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 5:00pm
(must be received by this time) 
Election Day: Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Why I Vote: A Letter to My Sister

My younger sister asked me the other day, “Why are you so obsessed with voting and getting people registered to vote?”

To give you some backstory… I have been pretty adamant in the last two years about discussing politics, encouraging friends to register to vote, getting involved with organizations, and going to the polls no matter if its presidential, midterm, or local elections. I have become “the crazy voting lady”; but that is okay.

After getting off the phone with my sister, I mulled over the conversation. How do I explain my passion to her and her friends who really don’t care much about elections, let alone politics? How do I verbalize something that I consider to be so extremely vital?

Upon reflecting, I developed a list of reasons voting in elections is so essential to me.

  1. It took until June 26, 2015 for my LGBTQ+ friend’s marriages to be federally recognized. I remember being so elated but also so mad that it took this long for something as simple as love to be recognized in the eyes of the government.
  2. When I was in high school, my mom was unemployed and on food stamps but it wasn’t enough to feed her, my sister, and I. It was barely enough to pay for the rent and a few meals. The government has unrealistic ideas of living wages.
  3. Some of my friends who went to school for Associate degrees don’t make a living wage of $15/hour but have thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
  4. When I was in college, my dad was still unemployed from the recession. Since I was in college, I was no longer covered under state insurance and my college insurance rates were too expensive for me to cover since I only made $7.75/hour for 10-15 hours a week. I was uninsured and scared of every possible illness. Getting a cold was terrifying. “What if it escalated? I can’t go to urgent care. I don’t have $150 to cover this.” It was three months, but man those were three very stressful months.
  5. During the recession, my dad and mom’s medications cost so much without insurance that they had to pick and choose which ones were essential on a given month.
  6. It’s 2018 and my co-workers and friends of color are still scared to get pulled over by the police, because in the current climate, getting pulled over for a broken tail light has lead to death at the hands of those who serve.
  7. My monthly student loan payment is more than my monthly rent payment.
  8. Women are still afraid to speak up because even when a man does something that violates a woman he is welcomed with open arms by the highest law making entity in the United States or told his future is “too bright” for him to serve time in jail.
  9. Our criminal justice system is broken. It is broken beyond repair. Men and women of color in disproportionate numbers go to jail because they can’t pay traffic fines or for minor drug charges. This becomes an easy way for the government to fully discriminate against them for housing, government aid, jobs, and most importantly – takes away their voice and ability to make a difference, by not allowing them to vote.  
  10. If we aren’t voting for people who care about these dire issues, we will never see real change. Change happens on the floor of the House and the Senate. It happens when the right people are in office.

To my dear sister: I vote, because I want you to HAVE a future, a voice, a choice. I want you to matter. I want you to thrive in a country that believes everyone is equal. I believe that every vote is a step in that direction. Every vote counts. Your voice matters.

Written by: Whitney Mooney, Administrative Assistant 

syd
My sister and I on her high school graduation day.