Voting is as wrong as it is pointless.
So say millions of Americans who never vote, including a Georgia resident who recently sent CAIR Georgia a critical email. This gentleman was displeased when he heard about our "Georgia Muslims Early Vote" initiative.
CAIR Georgia and the Georgia Muslim Voter Project have called on all Georgia Muslims to early vote on the same day at the same time (Saturday, May 14th, at noon) to maximize and publicize voter turnout in the state's ongoing primary elections.
But this "anti-voter" objected to voting for candidates who "promote (immorality), (usury) and the global killing of Muslims amongst other horrible things." He also insisted that CAIR Georgia "stop sending these requests [to vote]..."
First, the anti-voting views that this Georgian expressed are not unique to to people of faith. Unfortunately, many Americans choose not to vote because they consider our political system irreversibly rigged, ineffective or otherwise unfair.
But anti-voters should reconsider their position for a few reasons.
First, as I told the gentleman who emailed me, Georgia's ongoing elections involve state and local positions, everything from sheriff to county commission to state representative. None of these offices involve matters of foreign policy, like war.
But local leaders do make decisions of critical importance, from education to property taxes to security to building permits.
Hoping to expand a mosque? Need police protection for Friday prayer service? Want to protect your kids from school bullying? Afraid of the state legislature's annually proposed anti-Islam bill? State and local officials handle all of these issues.
But even if you do not want to vote for any of the available candidates on your local ballot this year, you can still show up and vote for non-partisan referndum questions or write-in ANY candidate for symbolic value, from Mickey Mouse to Ron Paul.
Wait a minute, you might say. Isn't that just a waste of both my vote and my time?
Not at all. When you show up at your polling place, particularly during a public voting initiative, you are telling local candidates that you are available as a potential supporter. In doing so, you give current and future candidates a reason to earn your community's support the next time around.
Indeed, if Georgia Muslims show up to vote en masse this year, we can, God willing, increase our political clout on the local, state and federal level, thereby making it easier for us to seek positive change for all Americans, from domestic issues like credit reform to foreign issues like peace in the Middle East.
There is one more reason anti-voters should reconsider their position.
People who refuse to vote express concerns about the morality of becoming responsible for what "corrupt" or "immoral" things politicians do by voting for them. But the fact is, we're Americans. We live here, work here, and therefore pay taxes here. Our leaders then use our tax dollars to implement policies that we might find objectionable.
If we object to voting for such leaders, we should also object to paying taxes to them. That would leave us with two options: refuse to pay taxes (and then walk ourselves to the nearest federal prison), or leave America altogether and give up our citizenship (thus freeing ourselves from the obligation to pay taxes).
But I would argue that there is no need to swallow either of these bitter bills, for there's an easier solution: vote.
Every American has an objection to something that the government does. Republicans oppose funding Planned Parenthood. Democrats once opposed paying for the Iraq War. Fiscal conservatives object to rampant government spending. Everyone, literally everyone, can find some government policy they oppose.
But in a republic like the United States, every one of us also has a way to express our opinion and seek positive change.
Thus, I must pose this question to anti-voters. Does it make more sense to sit on the sidelines while we complain about the rules of a game that we keep funding? Or does it make more sense to jump into the game and influence it for the better?
Don’t answer that question aloud. Instead, for the sake of improving your community, vote. Vote early…vote together…vote on May 14th at noon!
Edward Ahmed Mitchell is an attorney and former journalist who serves as Executive Director of CAIR Georgia. Email him at email@example.com.
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