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Correcting course: I’m voting in 2020 because I didn’t vote in 2016

I used to be someone who didn’t think their vote mattered. I grew up thinking “I’m one person, the government doesn’t interest me, why even vote?” But I know now that I was wrong. This year, I’m trying to make up for the vote that I didn’t cast last time by getting myself and my audience to vote.

That’s why I’m taking part in MoveOn’s Your Vote Is Power campaign. Since I already have an audience who follow me on my journey as a photographer and a freelancer, I want to take them on my journey with politics and government as well.

After I chose not to vote in 2016, I learned that my vote does matter. At the time, I was a college kid who chalked it up to not knowing how to file an absentee ballot. I had become complacent under the Obama administration, and I was too confident in the polls leading up to Election Day. I, like other white people who grew up in middle-income families, had lulled myself into a sense of false security; as if there was nothing at stake for me and my vote didn’t matter.

But my vote isn’t only about me and my interests. When Donald Trump enacted the Muslim travel ban after he took office, I was devastated at how quickly he began taking away the rights of so many, how so many were struggling and suffering because of that ban and his xenophobic policies. All of it needs to be stopped. One way we can make that happen is by voting and another is showing up for our communities. 

My community is yet another reason why I’m voting this year. 

The protest against the Muslim ban in 2017 was the first protest I ever attended, and it empowered me. I felt like I was part of a community working together to make something happen instead of just yelling about it online. 

I witnessed that community come together again in March of this year when a massive tornado ripped through Nashville and destroyed the eastern side of our city. We lost dozens of businesses that have been an important part of the community for years, from restaurants to boutiques to music venues. But the next day, I got on social media and saw hundreds of people picking up debris, offering support, and launching campaigns to gather things like financial donations and toilet paper, all of their own free will. Multiple organizations and social media accounts had to post things like, “Okay, we have more than enough donations. Put your money somewhere else, help somebody else. We’re good.” 

I am going to continue to stand by my community this year by voting for Joe Biden. Biden is someone who will show up for my community. He has a heart that’s a lot closer to mine and my values, especially when compared to the Trump administration. I’ve seen all of the things Trump and his team have done for the past four years, and I don’t want any of it.

I have no more excuses this time around. Like many people in our country, I’m a naturally lazy person, and I also get a lot of anxiety when faced with new situations and procedures. I always thought that voting was too hard and too much trouble, but when I actually took the time to figure it out in 2018 for the midterms, I discovered it really wasn’t that hard at all. 

I got to see my vote in action during that election cycle when important local issues were tacked on the end of the ballot. I didn’t know what exactly I was voting on, so in the voting booth I pulled out my phone to find more information. I realized that one measure was about introducing a citizen police oversight board to keep police in check, and I felt hopeful that such a board could make a huge difference in the Nashville community. So I voted for it and, when it passed and came to fruition, I was able to look at myself and others and go, “Whoa, we did that.”

I’m excited to replicate that feeling in 2020, but I recognize that there will always be more work to be done. Having one good president in office is not going to fix all of our problems. Even after the election, we must all continue to show up for our communities. One of the ways I can do that is by supporting the small-businesses in my city, especially those owned by people of color, and by using my money to speak for me. There are more ways to show up that I’m still discovering, but regardless, I have to continue showing up and doing the work, even when it feels like we’ve won.

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People like Jenna are committed to ensuring that injustice is no longer the norm. We must elect officials who won’t stall and who won’t put the lives and livelihoods of millions in danger. Make sure you are registered to vote. Make sure you know how to vote by mail. And make sure you mobilize others to vote as well. Together, we’ll create a better tomorrow.