I have been receiving more and more calls from various organizations asking for me to write about voting rights for prisoners, about why it is important, what it means for prisoners to vote. Because of this my cellie and I have been having an ongoing debate about the importance of voting. They have taken a very interesting position which I strongly disagree with.
My cellie says that whether prisoners have the right to vote or do not have the right to vote does not matter. It will change nothing. Prisoners will not vote strongly for or against Republicans or Democrats and it would not really matter all that much if they did. Both parties endorse genocide. For example: internationally, both parties support specifically funding the state of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. Closer to home both parties failed to pass a bill making it illegal for police to choke black people to death. In both of these cases we see Democrats and Republicans in Bipartisan agreement to let people of a particular race die at the hands of state sanctioned violence. This is state sponsored genocide.
Furthermore, the system which allows these things to occur is supported by and self perpetuated by powerful multinational korporations who fight to maintain the status quo through a leveraging of media, money, and the fears of the many.
My cellie argues that the process of voting itself make one complicit in the system which causes these crimes against humanity to occur and the only moral choice is to not vote.
As I said before, I disagree and this is why:
It is true that the very nature of power and politics in Amerika are inherently racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, xenophobic, and a dozen other bad things I don’t even know the name for. The US is a colonial empire nation state. Translation: The US is kinda sorta totally evil and generally not ok.
I argue that it is our moral imperative to use whatever voice we have to call out these systemic and individual wrongs while exploring ways of dismantling every part of it.
Voting is not by any means the endgame. It is one key part in a larger scheme. Voting is so important because of its cultural significance. An individual who carries a vote has a voice which matters where as an individual who doesn’t, well, doesn’t.
I have been writing this blog for two years. I am regularly reminded by the DOC mailroom staff that doing so is not allowed. I do not have the ability to put these words out into the world on my own. They have to pass through the hands of Megan, a person who carries a vote, in order to be heard by you, my audience. Being able to vote is not about hanging chads and election night squabbling over who’s more popular.
Being able to vote is about being recognized as a human being with a voice which deserves to be heard in its own right, not because someone with more privilege has decided to lend a hand.
I want to have my voice matter. I want to be able to be heard when I say “this that and the other thing is bad.” I want to be a part of the conversations happening right now all over the world about race, class, gender, and safety.
But I can’t. And that’s not okay.
I want to have a vote because I need to have a voice.