Election Day has finally arrived and CNN contributor and TV One host Roland S. Martin has a strong message to encourage Americans to get out and vote today. In an interview with EBONY.com, Martin explains his ‘Vote or Shut the Hell Up’ campaign.
EBONY: You’re hitting voter apathy hard with your new campaign to get out the vote on Tuesday. With the stakes being so high in this election, are you getting the sense that there are a significant number of people in this country who are still apathetic about this election?
ROLAND MARTIN: Yes and it’s not just African Americans, if you look at the fact that you have a significant number of [eligible] people who don’t vote. There are lots of people out there who say “oh it doesn’t matter. It’s no big deal.” But it always bugs me when I listen to people who say [that]. [This campaign] is really about reminding people and getting them to understand that their vote does matter because so much of our lives are impacted by what takes place in the halls of Congress, in courts, what takes place in state capitals, county commissioners’ courts, city halls, D.A.’s offices, judges, and it’s really getting people to expand their understanding.
We get caught up in just the presidential race and we forget that we can be all angry and upset with the Trayvon Martin case but the anger really stems from the fact that the prosecutor in Seminole County [in Florida] chose not to charge George Zimmerman. Well, [the prosecutor’s] position is an elected position. We can sit here and get upset about the Marissa Alexander and the mandatory minimums [case in Florida where Alexander is serving a 20 year sentence for firing a warning shot in the air to keep her husband from harming her] but those were laws passed by the legislature, those were laws enforced by the judge in that case. I think it’s constantly trying to remind people that our votes do matter because who we choose to support or even [choosing] not to vote makes a difference in the direction of our public policy.
EBONY: Those are really excellent points concerning local issues and why it’s important to get involved in the electoral process on a local level. But to bring it back to the Presidential election, I was definitely one of those people who became disenchanted after 2000 when the Electoral College elected George W. Bush while the popular vote elected Al Gore. When that outcome can occur, how do you reassure people that their votes really matter and they do have a say in our national-level governance?
RM: Well first of all understand that you can’t win a state Electoral College vote without winning the state popular vote. People clearly forgot their civics lessons from school, if you win the popular vote for the state you win the Electoral College vote. That’s simple math. I get people being disenchanted from 2000 but that was 12 years ago. Are we supposed to check out and say it doesn’t matter? Well back then, [Florida’s] Secretary of State Katherine Harris [an elected position] played a role in that outcome and the people of Florida also could have made a difference in who was elected president that year by voting for secretary of state. But just sitting on the sidelines and complaining — that’s just weak. We’ve got to be more forward-thinking than that. We’ve got to care about these matters today. Look at the Blacks and Whites who died over the ballot box and then people have the nerve to complain after the fact instead of doing something about it.
EBONY: Speaking of forward-thinking, it’s Wednesday morning, America wakes up, what does it look like and where do we go from here as a country?
RM: Well, we just don’t know. If President Obama is re-elected, that’s a whole different deal than if Governor Romney is elected. Even if President Obama wins, we still have to deal with the reality of Republicans controlling the House and Democrats controlling the Senate. We still have to figure out how we’re going to work together and deal with that. But we’ve got to take care of business on November 6 and then we can deal with November 7. You’ve got to ‘Vote or Shut the Hell up!’ No more crying, “Oh, woe is me, woe is me.” We can change the direction of the country with our vote.
You can catch Roland Martin’s election coverage on TV One beginning at 7p.m., on CNN from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m., and all day long on Twitter.
Brooke Obie writes the award-winning blog DistrictDiva.com. Follow her on Twitter @BrookeObie.