Readers: It’s a 10/10 Challenge!

Staff Commentary

Yesterday was Voter Registration Day. If you were not registered, did you get in on the action? If not, why? You only have a few days left to be part of the American democratic process. And, if not, please, don’t tell me that you’ve got an opinion about issues or elected officials when you could have voiced your biggest one by voting for the candidates of your choice. Don’t complain when you had a chance to make a difference. And, more importantly, this year is crucial in order that progressive candidates are elected to serve our LGBT community.

I’ve been around a long time through many elections over my lifetime. And, the one this year is one of the most contentious ones I’ve ever seen. We’ve got two very different candidates and, personally, I’ve had my mind made up for quite awhile on my choice of candidate for whom I will vote.

My first memory of elections was during the Dwight D. Eisenhower years. I was really young and I went to the polls with my Momma. I decided that I wanted to vote and the precinct workers indulged me. They gave me a piece of paper and a pencil and let me scribble my “vote” and I handed it to them. They put it into a special box for kids’ ballots and I was elated.

Life marched on.

Then? Picture this. It’s 1969. You are a freshman in college and it’s in the early years of the Women’s Movement. Girls are burning their bras (literally and figuratively) and I was sure one of them.

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I had an opportunity to work for a Democratic candidate in Memphis, Tenn., as his communications director when he went up against Harold Ford, Sr. in the 1970s during Ford’s fist bid for the state House. We traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise funds and the whole thing was exciting. My candidate lost in the primary, but the experience I gained far outweighed those losses we had.

Afterward, I became a member of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and subsequently its Sexuality and Lesbian Task Force. What, you say? A task force? Yes, in those days, NOW was exploring how to engage and bring lesbians into its fold. At a later date, I’ll share some of stories with you, but this is not the time.

Our NOW group was asked to provide security (I know, I know, you don’t even need to say anything!) for a Mid-Winter Democratic Conference in the mid 1970s. I had a chance to see some of the big-time folks, but the best “see” I had was being able to escort and handle Bella Abzug in the speaker’s area. What a thrill. Even had a photo taken of us together.

And, I even had my hat in the ring once for a spot on the North Carolina General Assembly’s House of Representatives. I ran a solo campaign as a Libertarian candidate, being recruited by my national ballot drive chairman brother-in-law. I had to change my party affiliation from Democrat to Libertarian. Of course, I lost, but I was up against over a dozen other folks and I think I did rather well, considering. I netted over 2,000 votes and I never campaigned, and I never took in any contributions or had any staff or volunteers. It really was exhilarating. Later on I changed my affiliation again and registered as an Independent.

Over the years, I’ve made sure that I’ve been a current registered voter, and now I am a precinct worker, just like those folks were doing all those years ago in my hometown. I find the work rewarding, and I have a sense that I am contributing to the process. I always make sure that I vote early, however!

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Now, that brings me up to my challenge. What I am asking each of our readers to do is to make sure you are registered. Then find 10 people who are not and either drive them to an appropriate place to register and have them each do the same thing with 10 other people and so on and so forth. Even better yet, have a carpool to the polls for early voting or on Nov. 8. Make it an event. Maybe even a party! Just celebrate your privilege of being able to vote.

Our own survival and freedoms are at stake right now. Personally, I’m ready to see a woman in the White House and have wanted to see that since my days with NOW. It’s been on my bucket list as something to experience before I die.

Are we “stronger together?” We sure are! Do we need to “make America great again?” No, it’s already great. But, we always have room for improvement and we’ve seen incredible progressive changes in recent years, even in the shadows of HB2 and its implications and aftermath. We simply have to move forward toward an even brighter future where “all y’all” really means everyone. Here’s your chance.

So take the challenge and vote! Registration deadline in North Carolina is Oct. 14 (ncsbe.gov) and in South Carolina is Oct. 8 (scvotes.org). Online registration is available, but registering in person is best so that there are no delays, etc. If you are going to be away, then get your absentee ballot now. If you are unable to make it to the polls, then vote early. Know someone who is ill, elderly or disabled and has challenges getting out or getting around? Be a helpful neighbor and citizen. Drive them to the polls. Curbside voting is available. Whatever you do — please vote!

Make the effort to be a part of the future today.

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.