In one of the most important elections in our lifetime, Oprah Winfrey lent her A-list star power to help civic participation in key battleground states.

“OWN Your Vote” hosted by Winfrey, interviewed activists, politicians, and students to dispel and debunk voting myths, encourage people who have never voted to vote, and inspire those who have never wavered in their civic duties to remain steadfast.

Over four nights, from Oct. 26-29, Winfrey hosted virtual town halls with special guests from key swing states Wisconsin, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

With civil and social unrest exploding at every turn, focusing on the election, whether people are voting down the ballot on national, state or local politicians and issues, is a challenge. However, Tamika Mallory, National Chair for the Women’s March said, “If you protest on the streets and you don’t go to the polls, you haven’t finished the job. Protests are important but protest only brings attention and awareness to the cause which is a very important piece of it but that’s not the end of it.”

Voting is how we seal the deal, making impactful changes that will affect us for the rest of our lives.

But many people are still confused, scared, angry or misinformed. There’s so much information out there about voting that it creates its own echo chamber. How do people choose the “right candidate” to vote for? Do people believe that they can solve civil and social unrest through voting?

Tamieka Issac Devine, Columbia, S.C., city council member, underscored the significance of voting, not only as it relates to the current state of the world and future, but also as it connects to the history of the Black foremothers and forefathers who fought for the right, as well as its importance to today’s political and social climate.

As Oprah and her special guests expounded on the importance of voting, they also highlighted the necessity of understanding the voting ballot. Across the United States, there are congressional seats, state supreme court judge appointments and local offices open. But many people are unfamiliar with not only who’s running in their state and local elections but also what amendments are on the ballot. To ease the stress of finding this information, Oprah and her team collaborated with the U.S. Census Bureau to create OWN Your Vote, a voting tool that allows people to learn what’s on the ballot before they go to the polls.

This preparation made voting early or on election day just a little bit easier. They also advocated for having a plan to participate, especially since the coronavirus has upended our traditional in-person method of voting. Lines have been long with many people at polling stations waiting hours to cast a ballot. “Making a plan to vote- knowing what your rights are, and then sharing your plan with your friends and family so that they are also making a plan to vote is key to having your vote counted,” Winfrey said.

“If you remember, former first lady Michelle Obama, at one point said ‘Pack your lunch, in fact, maybe you need to pack your dinner, too, and go out on election day, and stand in that line with your mask on and make sure you cast your vote.’ That’s part of making the plan- decide what you’re going to do, and then stick to it.”

Antonio Jackson, 41, also said he plans on rallying a caravan of people in his hometown of Charleston, S.C., so that they can have access to the voting polls.

“We are carpooling and setting up some type of arrangement to go together and carpool to the polls so that we’re not alone,” Jackson said on the Zoom call. “For some people, it’s their first time, so they may not feel comfortable voting alone.”

Consider what is in and out of your control more so than how you feel about the responsibility of voting. Connect with others who can support you and guide you to exercising your vote in the best way possible; all votes matter.

On Nov. 3, 2020, the most important election of our lifetime, we need to make sure we don’t leave any power on the table.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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