Commentary: Your Vote Matters

October 30, 2019 in News

By Oleta Fitzgerald,

Executive Director, Children’s Defense,

Fund- Southern Regional Office,

Mississippi heroes like Fannie Lou Hamer and Medgar Evers fought, bled and died, because they knew your vote matters. Between what is going on in our state and nation’s capitols, it’s clear that your vote matters more than ever.

Tuesday, there will be an unusual number of open offices on the ballot. With no incumbents running, you will have the opportunity to elect a new governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and for many, choose a new legislator.

You have an opportunity to vote for Mississippi’s next leaders and decide our state’s path.

Tuesday’s election is not about a single candidate or party. It is about the issues that affect you, your family and your community. And nothing dictate’s our state’s future like public education. Simply put, our public schools are on Tuesday’s ballot.

Unfortunately, we have come to expect the underfunding of public education. This year alone, state leaders came up $225 million short of providing our public schools with what they need to fund even an “adequate” education.

But it is deeply upsetting that a few lawmakers used their power to secretly funnel public dollars away from our schools and to private groups and pet projects. Last year we saw legislative leadership push $2 million to fund private school vouchers while failing to provide needed funding for Pre-K.

Over the last few years, lawmakers have worked with lobbyists to send $1.5 million in tax dollars, intended for public schools, to Weight Watchers. Yes, the legislature is fine with our children going to school buildings with leaking roofs but work hard to give your tax dollars away to private interests.

It’s clear that the Mississippi legislature has used secrecy and closed-door meetings to push your tax dollars to groups and communities that don’t need the help. The lack of transparency has left our schools underfunded, our teachers underpaid and our communities under-resourced.

Political and policy disputes are normal. But what we are seeing is far deeper than routine partisan conflict. The issue is whether our state government is truly aspiring to good governance. Good governance welcomes open debate and invites varying viewpoints. Good governance produces correct and transparent accounting of taxpayer dollars.

But, the good news is that it doesn’t have to stay this way. Every four years you have an opportunity to let your state leaders know that you’re watching. That opportunity comes on Tuesday. Make your voice heard at the ballot box.

Make a vote plan for Tuesday. Whether you’re going to vote before work at 7 a.m., during your lunch hour, or after 5 p.m., set a reminder in your phone or calendar. Then call or text 5 people and challenge them to vote on Tuesday.

Remember this race isn’t about a politician. It’s about the future of our state. It’s about your schools, your roads and your health care. But one thing is clear if we turn out to vote, we can change Mississippi.

On Tuesday, November 5th, your vote matters.