This Nov. 6 Americans nationwide will vote in the General Elections to determine their new state leaders.
Yet, a raising concern in the Clarksville community, as well as the nation, is that many people, young people especially, do not participate in the voting season.
In fact, many believe that young adults express an apathy towards the voting tradition that is a staple of America’s character.
The members of the Wilbur N. Daniel African American Cultural Center (WNDAACC) hope to change that.
WNDAAC hosted a meeting Thursday, Nov. 1, asking all students to come and hear what they need to know about voting, and why it is important.
“If you look at the numbers, Tennessee is very low in terms of people who choose to vote and voter turnout,” Marcelius Braxton said. He has a J.D. from the North Carolina School of Law, an M.A. in philosophy and is currently serving his third year as director of WNDAACC.
“People who are 18 to 29 often don’t vote,” Braxton said, “Many will say ‘I don’t understand why I need to vote. I don’t understand why it is important. It’s not going to affect me.’ So, we wanted to talk to the students and the community as to why voting is important.”
This forum hosted by WNDAACC is not to give information to students about the history and political standings of state and local officials.
It is not about the details of the Republican or Democratic party, but simply to let students know how important voting is and how it has a dramatic effect on the lives of the American people.
It is down-to-earth voting education.
“We want to know if they are aware of their representatives,” Braxton said, “because we have so many students and people at APSU who are not aware of who their senator is, who represents them in the house, what happens at local elections.”
“The voting seasons happen [and] they did not have any impact on it because they did not vote,” Braxton said.
The forum teaches students how to vote regarding registration, voting requirements (such as voter ID), where they can vote (including online) and how to find information on candidates.
It also goes into detail about the specifics of voting, such as district participation within state-oriented voting, and essential bills being represented by candidates.
During the forum, Braxton opened the floor for students to discuss topics regarding local voting, why it is important, and why it can be percieved as unimportant.
In discussion, some students said no political change will ever have a dramatic effect on the people.
Other students believed local politics to be unimportant due to the lack of prestigein comparison to the high-stakes voting of presidential elections.
Overall, many students said they do not vote because they believe that their own voice is not important enough to enact real change in politics.
In additon to open discussion, the forum invited three local officials to describe the mechanisms of voting and the dire importance of voter participation.
The officials included Dr. Rashida A. Leverett, who is county commissioner of District 5 in Montgomery County, Keith D. Lampkin, director of Office of Community Economic Development of the City of Clarksville and Sean Siple of Civic Tennessee, a non-profit organization that promotes civic engagement in social affairs, particularly voting.
Leverett briefly described her role as a local politician, and county commissioner.
“County Commissioners are responsible for the money in the county. We approve the budget. So, when you talk about potholes, we have to say ‘how much money did we allocate this year to street repair?’” Leverett said.
Leverett also mentioned that the majority of Montgomery County’s budget, 74 percent, is directed towards the school system.
“I don’t work for the mayor,” Leverett said. “I work for you. You all hired me and this is what I’m trying to get young people to understand—you are the employer.”
“You don’t work for the politicians,” Leverett said. “They work for you. If you don’t vote, they don’t get hired. Who do you think I am going to listen to more—the mayor or you who voted for me?”
Leverett explained the role of voting not just for the individual themselves, but for the plans and beliefs they are willing to fulfill. If the candidate is elected and fulfills the voters’ wants and needs, then he or she keeps their job, but if not, then he or she is fired.
Leverett also invited all students to participate in the county commissioner meetings, which are public and transpire in the county courthouse the first and second Monday of every month at 6 p.m.
There the public can voice their wants, needs and concerns about the Clarksville/Montgomery County area.
“I am not an elected official,” said Keith D. Lampkin. “But I do work in city government. I’ve been in city government for almost twenty years.”
“We have a public meeting,” Lampkin said, “that our office holds every year and nobody shows up. If you don’t show up, then I get to decide what do with the money, not you.”
“Today, we are bidding on working on a trail near Red River, and we’re discussing with grant folks if we’re really wasting our time or not because kids from APSU are not participating,” Lampkin said, giving an example on the importance of participation
A severe consequence to this lack of participation is local officials acting on their own intuition over matters like state funding due to the lack of civilian participation.
A lack of local voices equals a lack of social progression.
According to Lampkin, APSU cannot afford to be non-participative.
“APSU has the worst census chart,” Lampkin said. “As far as meeting income, as far as pregnancy rates, and unemployment rates—the worst of the worst is right here.”
“But there are things we can do to improve it,” Lampkin said. “One of [those] things is voting. We’re looking at spending millions of dollars reviving this area—what would you guys like to see this place become? What is important to you?”
Nov. 6th is an important day for Americans to make their voice heard.
Events such as the WNDAACC forum call APSU students to fully participate in this year’s voting season and to take advantage of the voting right that is bestowed upon them as American citizens.
As stated by America’s 32nd president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”