The decision to exercise my right to vote was a difficult one. There have been very few candidates that inspire me. Naturally, I retreat until it is time for me to collect my sticker that would be better suited with one added word: reluctantly.

Still, I vote. I vote because I am underrepresented though I relate to so many of my neighbors. I vote to show I care about the conditions under which we live. 

I grew up in a handful of poor neighborhoods around Lexington, Kentucky. My childhood completely lacked overheard adult conversations about political leaders or government officials. We hadn’t made it that far. Rather, we spoke about the hardships of our neighbors and what we could do to help. The immediate issues of our community were not addressed by outsiders. We came together with the few resources allocated to us and helped one another. I remember many lunches and dinners when my mother invited the neighbors who couldn’t prepare their own meals for lack of food, electricity, or running water. I remember all of our live-in friends, who I now realize had no other place to go. We made family of any people in need and whomever had the means returned the favor when we were in need. I do not remember any outsiders coming into our spaces.

This is not a unique experience. There are institutions in place to keep lower class Americans from voting and when we are not formally stripped of our ballot, barriers come between us and full representation and participation. I grew to learn that there are people who are paid to build safer communities and create opportunity. Those people did distance themselves from people in need. It was and still is difficult to subscribe to the idea that one should participate in the race to elect these officials who neglect people like me. 

In 2014 it was reported that “a full 43 percent of nonvoters are Hispanic, African American, or other racial and ethnic minorities.” the people who populated my neighborhoods. And though voter participation is on the rise in all demographics, the working and lower classes are underrepresented in government. This requires involvement beyond voting- and if you have not come to terms with the idea, outside of voting.

 I understand the resentment towards the processes that entitle our leaders, but the unknowing and uninvolved demographics are populated by the groups that would benefit most from radical change in these same processes. Following midterm elections in November 2018, I asked a handful of my neighbors and peers if they had taken the time to vote. Many said no. I questioned whether my apathetic vote meant more.

Our knowledge of the issues is first hand – in our homes, neighborhoods and schools. But “understanding” the issue in the larger context of Lexington government and policy is important, as well. Taking advantage of resources like Civic Lex and the City meetings calendar gives us a start on ways to address problems we think need fixing. Learn who is responsible for representing you. Understand that to secure a better future, we must take on today’s challenges no matter how large or small. Rather that means voting or educating and advocating for unattended groups. 

Connect with your neighbors and local leaders who work at the ground level to inspire the future. Most importantly, educate the youth and the unknowing. It is our duty to relieve the plight of those in poverty and in underserved populations. We have to teach them to navigate the world, provide them with resources to enhance their experiences.

It is common for us to think of politics as a compilation of unreasonable concepts and unmovable pieces floating way overhead. Politics are the activities and the people we elect to govern us, to work for us and to better our world. Our chance at changing politics is not limited to the ballot box. Voting is only one part of the process. So, I submit to you this: do ordinary acts that improve the status and experiences of your neighbors. These are the politics that #Kentucky needs. Spread the word. 

– Ari Turner

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