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It’s time to grow up: Voting in every election

Casey Thomas | 4/14/2014, 11:16 a.m.
We can no longer wait to vote in presidential elections. We have too much at stake to sit out any ...
Casey Thomas

The Dallas Examiner

We can no longer wait to vote in presidential elections. We have too much at stake to sit out any election that is held in our community. We have to stay engaged between elections and speak up on issues that are important to us. For too long it has been expected that Black people will only vote during presidential elections, and no one has had to worry about the Black vote during midterm or local elections.

When we look at our political history in the city of Dallas alone, we have been at the forefront of changing the way we elect our local representatives. There was a time when Blacks did not have a voice or a vote in this county. There was a time in our city after having the right to vote that we were outvoted and there was not anyone who was a voice specifically for the Black community.

For those who are new to Dallas or do not know the history of the city, there was a time when our City Council representatives were elected at-large, which means there was no representation by district. Anyone who wanted to run for office had to campaign across the entire city. This caused each candidate to raise a tremendous amount of money to get the word out citywide about their candidacy. This also limited the voice of those who lived in the southern part of the city.

After feeling disenfranchised, Black leaders of community groups and the clergy alike came together to challenge the city to move to a hybrid of representatives elected citywide and others elected by City Council district. This opened the door to the current system of government known as 14-1. What 14-1 entails is 14 different City Council members, each elected by residents who live in that particular City Council district. The mayor of the city of Dallas is elected at-large, which means citywide. This has allowed more for an equal voice at the horseshoe where decisions are made for the city.

Not only must we vote in every election and be knowledgeable of the issues, but we must run for office and fund our own candidates. All four of the Black City Council candidates are term-limited, which means that they are only allowed to serve four consecutive two-year terms. As of May 2015, all four of the seats will be open.

We know that in the past the Progressive Voter’s League not only endorsed candidates who ran for office, they also groomed many of our current elected officials at the city, county, state and federal level. PVL was made up of democratically elected precinct chairs who would go out and walk their streets and talk to their neighbors about not only what was on the ballot but who they should vote for. Since many of the candidates had proven themselves by volunteering to work campaigns in the past, it was easy for the Black community to get behind them when it was their turn to run for office.