By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
Unlike any other time in American history, it is important for all eligible citizens to exercise their right to vote on Nov. 4.
Recently, there has been significant dialogue regarding which party will control the House and the Senate in Washington. These conversations highlight a very real point: This election is critical to the future of minorities and middle-class Americans.
Voter engagement is crucial.
In minority communities, there is a common misconception that voter turnout is only important during presidential elections. But adhering to this school of thought could result in more than a decade of financial and political oppression.
It is not enough to see massive voter turnout in 2016; the same level of voter turnout must occur on Nov. 4.
Since the election of President Barack Obama, America’s first African-American president, the Republican Party has become the “Obstructionist” Party. During the current Congress, the GOP has done everything in its power to ensure the ineffective operation of our federal government. For example, in 2013 the Republican Party caused a government shutdown.
Now, with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Obstructionist Party has shifted its efforts to implementing new voter ID laws and unconstitutional “poll taxes” that block the votes of approximately 600,000 eligible voters in Texas.
The new Texas voter ID law lists state driver’s licenses, voter identification certificates, state ID cards, concealed gun permits, military IDs, citizenship certificates and passports as the only forms of permissible voter identification.
Student ID cards, issued by the state’s colleges and universities, and other forms of government identification, including a voter registration card, are not acceptable forms of ID under the law.
The ability to utilize concealed gun licenses as a form of acceptable voter identification highlights the reality that these new laws were created to favor a specific demographic, while disenfranchising others. Why would a state deliberately violate the civil rights of millions of its residents?
Research shows that if African-Americans and Latinos successfully turned out to vote, many so-called red states would become blue.
A Congress controlled by Democrats would guarantee a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour. This would occur during the first 100 days of a new Congress.
Additionally, increased access to early childhood education would become a reality, and the Equal Pay Act, which ensures that women earn the same wages as their male counterparts, would go into effect.
But none of these vital changes will occur without proper voter education and participation.
To be prepared for the Nov. 4 election, I encourage all voters to prepare themselves by visiting www.sos.state.tx.us to confirm their registration status. Voters can also visit www.votetexasgov to learn their correct polling places, and know their rights.
Do not allow yourself to be denied your right to vote based on technicalities. Educate yourself and vote on Nov. 4 to strengthen our democracy.
U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson represents Texas’ 30th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. She is a longtime ally of the LGBT community.