By Toni Christopher
A town hall meeting was held recently at Florida A&M University to discuss the importance of voting.
The town hall took place in the university’s Lee Hall Auditorium and included a panel moderated by Carmen Cummings-Martin. A question- answer portion invited audience members to play an active role in the conversation.
The panel included history and political science Assistant Professor John Warford, NAACP National Director Tiffany Loftin, Tallahassee Commissioner Curtis Richardson, history Assistant Professor Kimberly Pellum-Brown, and history Associate Professor Darius Young. The five panelists came together in an effort to stress the importance of participating in the democratic process.
“We have a responsibility to not only participate in the formal voting process…we have to use our vote to protect our own personal interest,” said Young.
Warford stated that voting is the simplest way to get what you want from your elected officials, and pointed out that the officials work for the people. His co-panelist Tiffany Loftin agreed.
“It is our job to make sure that our elected servants are operating from the standpoint of knowing what it is that we care about,” said Loftin.
Young reminded the audience that FAMU students in particular have a well-documented history of informing elected officials on what exactly their needs are, especially when it comes to academia.
“Part of our legacy has always been about protecting this institution,” said Young.
Loftin urged the audience to use their votes to protect the voiceless in addition to their academic institutions. He also challenged students to reach out to the uneducated and differently abled in an effort to inform them of the power of their votes.
“There is a group of people that we are not used to communicating with that we have to open our doors to and allow them to come to the table…our civic work doesn’t stop at the ballot box or on election day,” said Loftin.
Civic work being a non-stop activity was a shared opinion among the contributors. However, some panelists worried that many people are discouraged from participating in the basic civic duty and ultimately decide not to exercise their right to vote.
While recalling conversations he has had with individuals opting out of voting, Warford stated that the decision is a result of a lack of trust between voters and the political parties.
“We call it protest, but quite often it’s cynicism and it’s happened because we have been trusting and burned,” Warford admitted before adding, “becoming cynical will not help our situation. We have to have a strong strategic investment in the political system.”
Current FAMU student Bernique Monroe left the town hall feeling inspired to reach out to those who feel the cynicism Warford discussed.
“It’s very important for the youth to know about the importance of voting and why it does in fact matter and why it does affect you, your family, and your future,” Monroe said.
For Richardson the idea of not voting is unthinkable. Richardson encouraged individuals to vote for themselves as well as those that came before them. “Those who came before us gave their all so we could exercise that right…non-participation is not an option.