Jun 9, 2015

Elections Have Consequences!

Elections do have consequences and every vote counts.  On November 5, 2013, Virginians went to the polls.   Voters chose a Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General that day.  After almost 2.25 million votes cast, only about 2.5% points separated Terry McAuliffe from Ken Cuccinelli, and the Attorney General race hung in the balance by only 165 votes.  Mark Herring and his challenger Mark Obenshain had to wait out several days of recounts to finally have the decision.  Mark Herring won by 957 votes! With so many votes cast, less than 1,000 people going to the polls changed the course of LGBT history!  Terry McAuliffe, Ralph Northam, and Mark Herring took over the top executive positions in the Commonwealth with a Democratic sweep!

Since the sweep that day, Virginia has undergone many changes.  The impacts are seen in environmental conservation, womens’ health, LGBT rights,  DREAMers rights, education reform, and more.  Twice as many jobs have been brought to the Commonwealth in the first year of Governor McAuliffe’s administration than in the first year of any Virginia Governor’s tenure.  A few votes made and continue to make a profound difference.

One small but important difference is the celebration of Pride Month by the Commonwealth.  On June 17, 2014 and again on June 2, 2015, several of the Board members from the LGBT Democrats of Virginia along with LGBT activists from across the state were invited to the Governor’s Mansion to be a part of a ceremony proclaiming June “Pride Month in the Commonwealth”.  Although many of us have celebrated Pride Month in June for years, no other governor has actually proclaimed June Pride Month in the Commonwealth, and certainly none invited LGBT activists from every corner of the Commonwealth to celebrate Pride Month at the Governor’s Mansion.

2015-McAuliffe-Pride-Recognition

2015 Pride Month Certificate of Recognition

As was noted during this celebration, not one of us would have been welcome in the Governor’s Mansion if the result of the election had been different.  No proclamation would have been made and Virginia would have fought marriage equality. We very well may not have had marriage in Virginia or in many states across the United States if Attorney General Herring hadn’t made the valiant and correct legal stand that he did.

Again, I say, elections do matter and every vote counts.  I have spent many years registering voters across the Commonwealth.  I’ve had people tell me that they aren’t registered and aren’t interested in registering because their vote does not count.  People have told me that they vote the way their husband votes, or only on Presidential election years, or a myriad of other statements that frankly makes my blood boil.  We see year after year, election after election in Virginia that votes come down to a few hundred for major offices, and sometimes a handful for local or regional elections.  Just a few more people who registered, educated themselves, and exercised their right to vote can make a profound difference for so many that are discriminated against, minimized, or ignored.

The LGBT Democrats of Virginia recently joined on as a supporting organization for a special initiative to register, educate and activate voters across the Commonwealth.  The initiative is 90for90.org.  The initiative was started in honor of Dr. William Ferguson Reid, the first African-American to win a seat in the Virginia General Assembly since Reconstruction.  Dr. Reid was asked what he wanted for his 90th birthday and he said that he wanted 90 new voters registered in every precinct in the Commonwealth.  If this can be accomplished it will mean a quarter million new voters will be ready to participate in the election in 2015 and beyond.  The LGBT Democrats of Virginia attend every Pride event across the Commonwealth each year. At each we register as many new voters as possible to make sure that LGBT issues are brought to the forefront of each election.  It was a natural step for us to sign on to this initiative.  We have already started registering folks this season and will continue to do so at the many events we will attend from Hampton Roads to Floyd, DC to Richmond and beyond.  We hope to see you at a Pride or at another event this year.  We also would welcome your help registering voters and talking to voters about the great candidates that we have running across Virginia this election cycle.  Don’t let this year be another low turnout year.  We can take back the State Senate and make an impact on the disproportionate hold that Republicans have on the House of Delegates, but only with your help.

If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at [email protected].  We would love to have you join our membership, our volunteers, and our work to register, educate and activate LGBTQA voters across the Commonwealth.