Michigan's primary elections were last month and for a young progressive who loves all things political, it was Christmas in August for me.
As a member of LaunchProgress PAC's Candidate Advisory Board, I was excited to support our Michigan candidates Jon Hoadley, Stephanie Chang, and Kristy Pagan who won big on August 5, and Rebecca Thompson, a strong LaunchProgress candidate who was just 500 votes shy of winning her election.
But still, I'm haunted by the text message I received the afternoon of the primary, "Today are elections? Wasn't Obama just re-elected?"
Sadly this is the reality our country lives in. Many Americans, young and old, do not pay attention to local or state elections. Less than 18 percent of registered voters cast a ballot in Michigan's primary this year. This is astonishing considering the impact these "small" elections have on people's lives.
One example is the death of Trayvon Martin in Florida, an innocent young, black man who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was later acquitted due a Florida law called "Stand Your Ground." Many are familiar with George Zimmerman and blame him for this crime. But most don't know Dennis Baxley, for instance, the Florida state representative who co-sponsored the "Stand Your Ground" legislation and ushered this bill into law in the first place.
Another example is a recent law in Michigan called "Rape Insurance" that forces women to get separate insurance in case they are raped, absurdly placing the burden and blame on the rape survivor. Should all women expect or presume to be raped in their lifetime? The bill does not specify, but you could ask bill sponsor, State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who was first elected to the State House in November 2011. If you did not vote in Michigan's primary election, you may have missed the opportunity to remove Shirkey from office -- he won Tuesday and will be on the November ballot for State Senate.
Politics can be taboo in our daily lives. It can leave a bad taste in our mouths. But we cannot continue to only engage on an issue once it produces an outcome we don't like. We need to engage early to prevent an unfortunate outcome.
The greatest thing about this country is, as citizens, we have the right to choose our representatives. It's a gift to have the ability to cast our vote for the candidate we believe in, one many Americans take for granted. So the next time someone says, "I don't vote because my one vote doesn't matter," a common answer I hear when I ask someone why they don't vote in elections, tell them that's just plain wrong. Tell them about Trayvon Martin and the "Stand Your Ground" law state legislators in Florida passed. Tell them about the Michigan rape insurance law that the state legislature advanced.
Then there's the death of Mike Brown. Emotions and tensions are running high because of the murder of 18-year-old Brown by a police officer. Get upset about what's going on. Embrace that anger and rage inside you. Now channel that anger to do something positive. Get involved in elections and vote for candidates who will stand up proudly against the injustice of police brutality.
We have to remember that we elect the people who will change the laws that affect us, for better or for worse. It's time for us to get invested in state and local governments and elect people who make real change in our community and in our lives.
I know what you're thinking, "a millennial is telling me to vote?" Why, yes one is. I know a large amount of people believe millennials are the 'lost generation' and there's no hope for the future. Some say us millennials will never get serious about it. I've even heard that we'll be the reason for the end of the world. (Thanks for the confidence booster.)
However, I know my generation. Call me a delusional dreamer, but I strongly believe in my generation. We will exceed expectations and bring about positive change in this country, and this world.
Electing someone into public office is a serious responsibility. It is time for my generation to recognize this responsibility by supporting and electing young people who are running for office. They understand the problems we face and have the energy to fight for the causes we believe in.
Desmond Miller is Student Body President at Eastern Michigan University and a LaunchProgress PAC Candidate Advisory Board Member.