Last summer, both of us were arrested for civil disobedience for peacefully protesting the actions of the North Carolina General Assembly. Over 1,000 others went to jail for participating in Moral Monday protests, and thousands more North Carolinians spoke out at rallies.
Right now we have the chance to speak up once again by exercising our right to vote. Early voting has already started and runs through Nov. 1, followed by election day on Nov. 4.
Over the past year, politicians in our state have led the country in attacking many essential rights and freedoms: health care coverage for 500,000 North Carolinians, racial justice reform, stronger environmental protection, public education, access to birth control and women’s health care, and even our most fundamental right to vote.Moral Mondays gave hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, along with allies nationwide, the opportunity to express our outrage with legislators who are supposed to protect our rights, not limit them. Together, we spoke out to protest threats to the rights and freedoms of our marginalized communities.
With politicians working overtime to silence us, it is more important than ever that we make our voices heard at the ballot box this year. Throughout the past year, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina and the North Carolina NAACP have been working to register voters. We’re doing everything that we can to make sure voters have the resources needed available to them ahead of time so that their ballots are counted.
The best way to protest voter suppression efforts is to do this: vote.
By voting, we will rise up to assert that we will never go back to the days when women, young people, and minorities were not lawfully allowed to participate in the political process. We all know that voting is a key piece of democracy. It is a valuable right that we should never take for granted. Women and people of color in particular know how precious this right is. We struggled and fought for that right. Our ancestors dedicated their lives to the struggle. It hasn’t even been a full century since our rights became part of our nation’s constitution – so we of all people should never dismiss voting as unimportant.
Besides, if we don’t vote, we forfeit our license to protest when our freedoms and rights are threatened by representatives we never even bothered to vote against.
That’s why we’re calling you to action now through November 4. We know that we’re all busy with life’s responsibilities, so voting early helps make voting a bit more convenient to express our constitutional right. Voters can vote at any early voting location within the county where they are registered until November 1.
And, if you show up on Election Day at your assigned precinct and are in line by 7:30 p.m., you are allowed to vote.
Whether you choose to vote early or on Election Day, it’s good practice to have your identification with you even though it’s not required this year. While it’s only required that new voters provide proof of residency, we want all voters to be prepared for the 2016 change.
North Carolina has shown the nation we stand up against injustices. Let’s prove again that we stand up and get counted at the ballot box.
Rev. William Barber II is the president of the North Carolina NAACP. Janet Colm is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina.