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Why It's Imperative for Us To Vote

Why It's Imperative for Us To Vote

A pile of red, white, and blue buttons that say Vote

On February 13, 2018, I turned 18. For the first time in my life, I had the right to show up at the ballot box, to raise my voice, and to cast my vote.

One day later, on February 14, 2018, tragedy struck my South Florida community.

All at once, before me were two things: tremendous violence and grief, and a tool to fight back against it.

The problems that we face as a nation are overwhelming. Every day, we turn on the television to news of violence, hatred, and bigotry. Every day, we feel helpless to stop an endless tide of injustices.

Today, National Voter Registration Day, reminds me we must reject this feeling of helplessness. Those who are privileged enough to have the right to vote hold tremendous power; our lawmakers work for us. Just as I turned 18 and became enfranchised last year, thousands of my peers will join me this year and in the coming years. A change is in the works, and it needs your help.

I voted for the first time two weeks after returning home from Washington, D.C., where I’d participated in March for Our Lives. There, I’d stood in a crowd with hundreds of thousands of my allies, brought together by our collective frustration and anger. In one voice, we shouted: “Vote them out!”

When I returned home to Florida, I kept that promise. I voted for the candidates I knew would put the lives of their constituents above anything else.

As Jews, we are especially called to do this work. Rabbi Yitzhak taught, “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Talmud, Brakhot 55a). Though our modern system of democracy looks different than the world of our Talmudic Rabbis, we still recognize the importance of community representation in leadership. Without your voice, our leaders are beholden to no one but themselves.

Our Jewish heritage is one devoted to justice. We come from a prophetic tradition that fights oppressors, stands up for marginalized communities, and refuses to close our eyes to the world’s wrongs. No matter which issue keeps us up at night, it is imperative that we all show up to vote. For historically disenfranchised communities, for those too young to vote, for those whose lives have already been lost to injustice: we must show up to vote.

Even if you can’t show up to vote just yet, your voice is still needed and still heard. Young people – even before they turn 18 – are the driving organizers for progress and change. Speak with the adults in your lives, and make sure they understand you’re counting on them to cast a vote for your future.

When I return to the ballot box in March, I will stand in line with hundreds of other students on campus. We will have come from different backgrounds, histories, and motivations, but despite our differences, we will be bound by our shared commitment to our communal responsibility. We must protect one another. We must stand up for those who are different than we are. We must vote.

Register to vote today!

Zoe Terner, a student at the University of Florida, is the immediate past social action vice president of NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement. In February 2018, she joined students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to facilitate a lobby day in Tallahassee, Florida’s capital. More recently, she has served as the gun violence prevention campaign chair and a legislative intern, both at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., and the program manager for Not My Generation: A Summit for Young Adults Against Gun Violence. Zoe currently works as a legal intern with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, dedicated to bringing criminal justice reform to her home state.

Zoe Terner
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