Reflecting on the importance of voting rights on this MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a national day of service. I would just like to say that every Election Day should be a day of service as well because the easiest way you can serve your country, state and municipality is to vote. I used to say that voting is the least you can do, but in a nation where roughly one third of eligible voters opt out of doing so, that statement is the wrong one to be making.

It is important to vote, and it is important to have fair elections. Another great way to serve is to become a poll worker. Before becoming permanently disabled, I worked as a poll worker. The days are long, and no one does it for the pay, but this is important work.

My mother just told me that the township where she lives is seeking to get rid of a bunch of poll workers with a nonpartisan designation, seeking to only have registered Democrats and Republicans working at the polls. There was a time when I might have agreed with such a move. Having one Republican and one Democrat on each set of books, with one extra poll worker on site who is of the same political party as the sitting governor is a more classical approach. But during a pandemic, when it is especially difficult to find poll workers, is not the time to get rid of seasoned elections officers.

This week has been a good week for me as Editor. Middle Wisconsin received several good stories; so many, in fact, that some are being held until next month. There was a common theme to many of the stories: emphasizing the importance of fair elections. In my time as Editor, I have sometimes urged our regular contributors to write on one central theme for certain editions. This week, it occurred organically.

This is especially fitting for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Most years, I would spend time reading over his “I Have a Dream” or “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech, but there is another speech from Martin Luther King Jr. that is particularly fitting for the time we find ourselves in and it is his “Give Us the Ballot” address. It can be read here.

I plan to spend some time this Monday contacting elected officials and urging them to read Martin Luther King Jr.’s words. Every other cause we fight for is secondary to this cause because there is no hope for any other cause if we lose our democracy. The right to vote in fair elections is the defining principle of any democracy, and yet our legislators often delay any measure to secure this right.

My greatest disappointment with the Biden Administration and the current House and Senate is that they did not act soon enough on the issue of voting rights. As important as infrastructure is, it should not have taken precedence over voting rights.

The ideological foundation of this nation is even more vital than the ground on which we stand. Without the right to vote in fair elections, we lose every other right. It is a cause many have fought for and many have died for. It should not be taken for granted, especially in these times.

Just over a year ago, a vicious mob of insurrectionists attempted to steal away the decision made by an overwhelming majority of American voters, and an effort led by Republicans in our state legislative bodies is spending our taxpayer dollars to overturn the decision that the vast majority of voters in this state have made.

The vast majority of voters in this state support nonpartisan redistricting, and yet many of their own representatives stand in defiance of this..

Today is a day of service, and the way we must serve our nation, our state, and our local communities is to take a stand for voter rights. You can do this by contacting elected officials at all levels of government, resolving to vote in every election, and taking part in events being held by the Wisconsin Fair Maps Coalition. If you do all of these things and find that you want to do more, consider running for office.

Our democracy, for all its strengths, is incredibly vulnerable. We must serve it through making our voices heard and our votes count.