01/06/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Mar 08, 2014

Voting Matters

As we come into the New Year, there is one issue that most Americans agree on. That issue is the United States Congress. The majority of citizens, when polled, hold the Congress in very low esteem. The reasons vary, but for many, the gridlock and the inability to get things done have Americans truly frustrated. Congress' ratings are probably one of the few areas of agreement among voters of all stripes.

America's wellbeing is at stake. We continue to struggle to bring the economy back to a place where most Americans don't have to worry about finding a job and a means to support their families. For those who are currently unemployed, the congressional divide forced a budget compromise that left the unemployed, who rely on unemployment insurance, to hold them over until they find work out in the cold. There is no likelihood of the current Congress raising the federal minimum wage to provide a more livable wage to the working poor. We can expect to continue the bickering over the Affordable Care Act, and will likely find no new initiatives over bread and butter issues.

That brings us to the 2014 midterm elections. Every election is important, and most elections have real consequences. The 2014 elections will be no different. Almost any observer will agree that the nation's health and its self-esteem are all at stake. America's position in the world as the leader among leaders is vulnerable, because if the nation does not turn the corner and return economic promise to most of its citizens, the divide between the haves and have not, will grow and bring with it the type of unrest that comes with dissatisfaction.

The election will also be meaningful as the stage is set for the post Obama years. Much of the agenda that the President will like to accomplish, including jobs, gun policy and education initiatives, will all bog down in a Congress unable to get pass its partisan divide. That will doom the President to an undisputed lame duck status. If, however, voters take up their own interest and go to the polls in unprecedented numbers, they can be the road that leads pass the gridlock and provides a Congress that will work together to finish what is sure to be an historic Presidency.

Voters will not find the road to the ballot box an easy one. All voters need to prepare now to ensure that their right to vote is unfettered, and that the efforts to suppress voter turnout in the 2014 midterm elections is defeated. With the Supreme Court having gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its decision last year to declare Section 4 of the Act unconstitutional, and the "do nothing" Congress likely to do nothing to fix the VRA, states will now have the freedom to pursue Voter ID and citizenship laws that may have the effect of suppressing the vote of thousands of qualified voters. In many cases, these are the young, the elderly and black and Hispanic voters.

There is an old gospel song entitled "Victory is Mine." We as citizens, as voters, as workers, as "the people," can determine our own future and secure the avenue to real progress by not sleeping through the 2014 midterm elections.

Michael A. Hardy, Esq. is General Counsel and Executive Vice-President to National Action Network (NAN). He has been involved in many of this nation's highest profiled cases involving violations of civil or human rights. He continues to supervise National Action Network's crisis unit and hosts a monthly free legal clinic at NAN New York City's House of Justice.