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Voting is your right, take advantage of it!

Voting is your right, take advantage of it!

In my work as 9to5 Organizer for our Ban the Box campaign, I have been given the task to register people to vote.  I find this to be the most discouraging thing I have had to do in a long time.

It really bothers me when I ask a person if they are registered to vote and the response is, “I don’t vote and I don’t care.” My question to them is, “Why?”  It is so heartbreaking to hear people say their vote doesn’t matter, that politicians are going to do what they want anyway.  I try hard to make people understand that we have the power to change anything, if we vote.

I used to feel that very same way, because I am formerly incarcerated.  I have been convicted of a felony.  Years passed when I kept doing the same things, getting the same results.  One day it hit me to want to make a difference for myself and others.  This is when I registered to vote.  But the Secretary of State’s office kicked my application back and said I couldn’t vote because I was on probation.  I didn’t give up.  I kept fighting because I knew I was completely free of all state obligations.

Last month I sat through a full day meeting of the Fulton County Commission.  I was there  because of a piece of legislation that I helped to research, draft and organize community support for.  This legislation takes the question off of Fulton County applications about previous arrest and convictions.  (The county application had a total of 5 of these questions!).  As I met with each Commissioner, I could say, “I am a registered voter in Fulton County, and I am formerly incarcerated.  Here is a piece of legislation that will benefit people like me – and the community as a whole, that I want you to support.”  Without that “I am a registered voter” statement, elected officials have much less reason to listen.

Registering to vote has paid off for me.  Today, I know that because I vote, elected officials are my employees.  I am their employer.  They are to do what I need them to do, and I have the option to fire them.  That feels good.

Through my voting privileges and with my background; with the help of 9to5 Atlanta, I have had the opportunity to change laws and to end employment barriers for people with backgrounds.  If I didn’t vote I couldn’t have done this.

Marilynn Winn, 9to5 Atlanta Chapter Organizer.  Pictured above, on the left