NOTE: This piece is part of a collection of local essays on elections and trust.

If I could label the past year and a half, I would call it the years of reflection. I have been in my brain far more than my teenage self —  and that’s saying something. Whether it’s worry over COVID, civil unrest, voting rights, public schools, etc., the list goes on and on. There has not been what felt like a quiet moment mentally. I think that a lot, if not most, of the U.S. population would say the same. Mental fatigue… the struggle is real. 

One area that I have thought the least about is voter fraud. I know that many people were surprised by the outcome of the election. Add to that all of the accusations of fraud and I can see why that could cause many to question the system. 

However, for me, I can’t say that I have lost faith in a system that I had little faith in to begin with — the system that has been a battle for historically excluded groups to gain access to. A system that in 2022, we find ourselves once again facing possible legislation that seeks to remove or limit access to the ballot box for so many people once again. My concern is not voter fraud. My concern is voter suppression.

Please understand, I am a registered voter and card-carrying citizen. Getting registered to vote was a top priority for me once I turned 18. I understand the responsibility and importance of voting. It’s just as a person of color, you get used to seeing the system not work in your favor or people in power looking for ways to minimize our voices at the ballot box.

Black men received the right to vote with the 15th Amendment (1870), but it took years before many felt as if they could vote without fear or consequence. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was an aim to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote. As a woman, I am well aware of the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment to the Constitution being ratified in 1920, giving women the right to vote. Yet many African-American women would remain disenfranchised. This amendment didn’t eliminate state laws like poll taxes or literacy tests that were in place to keep African-Americans from voting. Many were met with violence even at polling stations when they tried to exercise their right to vote. Now we find ourselves in 2022 with so many states looking to pass legislation that many people in historically excluded groups feel will once again limit access to this system. It’s disheartening, yet another reminder for me that I must continue to vote. Not because I felt the election was somehow rigged, but because voting is how policies are made and policies shape our communities, cities and nation. 

Exercising our democratic right to vote keeps our democracy going. I have small children and often help with homework. I recently helped my daughter with a slide presentation on George Washington. While I was helping her, I read about how Washington grew weary of politics towards the end of his second term of his presidency. He retired and his farewell address included a warning against “the baneful effects of the spirit of party,” and encouraged a focus on education and morality, cautioned against sectionalism within the nation and admonished against entangling foreign alliances. All of these ideals echo through our political debates and culture today in a much quieter way. I think that some would argue that we are experiencing a reckoning with the “spirit of party” in this country.

Darline Mabins | Guest author

Darline Mabins, Executive Director, Multicultural Business Association