It may sound silly to be encouraging our community to vote right now, when the next major national election is more than a year away. But now is the perfect time to remind all of us that we must get to the polls.
Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new redistricting plan into law. What does this mean? It means that Republicans, who have the majority in the state legislature, were able to draw the map that dictates how people choose their representatives in the U.S. House. The GOP used its power to make sure that two popular Democrats will have to compete for the same district next time they run. The GOP also turned the 14th District into a strange zig-zag from southwest Detroit up to Pontiac, which makes no geographical sense but helps the GOP politically.
So why should we care about redistricting? Because this means that Republicans have a more convenient map, drawn to benefit their party, for the next ten years. Often, when we decide to go to elections or sit them out, we think of the immediate effects of voting – of not knowing much about the candidates, of hating to waste time waiting to vote on that particular day. But we don’t think much of the long-term effects. One effect of the LGBT community sitting out last year’s elections is that it’s now more difficult for us to elect pro-equality candidates – and it will be for the next decade. That’s a long time.
What is especially frustrating about the new districts is that Republicans were also able to draw the last district map ten years ago, when they also had the majority in the state legislature. This means that Republicans were able to redraw the districts that they crafted to their advantage in the first place.
We know it’s not popular to be political. We also know it’s not easy. Trying to read news stories about politics can be like reading sports stories; if you know little about the team or the sport, it’s hard to follow along. But there’s too much at stake for our community to not care about politics. We can be fired or denied a place to live just because we’re LGBT. We can’t get married, and if we choose to adopt, our children are allowed only one legal parent. Michigan won’t even recognize our marriage if it was performed legally in another state.
We have to wake up and be responsible in choosing the right leaders who will fight for our rights. This means voting – and not just in the national elections, but in our state and local elections too. The more Democrats we have on our city councils and in our state legislature, the better off we will be. Every little bit helps.
It’s so easy to vote: take an hour out of your day to pencil in a few circles or boxes. The effect will be felt for years to come.