You have the right to remain…empowered

The power enshrined in voting cannot be understated. Electing candidates and ballot measures that advance equity for all children is vital. So, what can you do to make certain that your right to vote—and everyone else’s—is fully realized? You can start by checking out our voting guides below.

From the moment the first European settlers arrived on its shores until present day, the United States has engaged in upholding—and restricting—the access and right to vote, depending on gender, race, and other factors. Indeed, while white men have long enjoyed this sacred privilege, women and people of color had to struggle for centuries to partake in the voting process: (white) women finally received the right to vote in 1920. Black men initially gained it during Reconstruction in 1870, but were largely prevented from exercising it, especially in the South, via poll taxes, literary tests, and other discriminatory practices. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Black men and women were finally able to fully exercise their civic rights under the law.

Unfortunately, some policymakers and legislative bodies, although sworn to ensure that every eligible citizen can freely vote in elections, have made it their mission to curtail access to the polls. From gerrymandering and eliminating polling stations and extended hours in primarily Black communities, to the devastating, partial overturn of a key provision in the Voting Rights Act in 2013, to the intentional exclusion of formerly incarcerated individuals from the voting process (which, again, predominately impacts Black people), voter suppression has become de rigeur. And it is no surprise, really: those who seek to disenfranchise voters know that their (oftentimes) bluntly racist, sexist, homophobic and generally discriminatory policies will not stand if we, the people, go to the polls to vote against them and their purveyors.

If you value equity and want to ensure its place in the electoral process and the laws that govern your city, state or the country, you won’t want to cast your vote blindly. These guides concisely lay out the importance, criteria and benefits of both equitable policies and candidates that promote the health and well-being of children and families. While it might seem cliché to state, “Vote as if your life depends on it,” the underlying sentiment holds true: what and whom you vote for are intertwined and can directly impact your quality of life and that of loved ones.

For example, as a working parent, you may have enjoyed an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) if available in your state, or the Child Tax Credit (CTC), that allowed many families to pay down bills, get caught up on rent, purchase necessary medicines, more easily buy nutritious foods, put money aside for savings, and even move out of poverty. That is a direct result of voting for individuals who prioritize health and wealth equity, and who champion policies that reflect those aims, into office.

Likewise, there are policies (and current and would be policymakers) that further racism and xenophobia, exclude individuals from beneficial programs and services on the basis of immigration status, stymie income parity and asset building, eliminate or reduce social safety nets that allow children and families to thrive, increase racial health disparities, and limit access to affordable childcare, housing, and medical care, all which challenge and obstruct health equity.

We cannot continue to risk the health of current and future children and families any longer. The disparities we see today are the direct outcomes of poor policymaking of years and even decades past. A society is only as healthy as the people elected, and the policies enacted, allow it to be. Use these guides to be better informed on those that seek to uphold good health and equity for all.