In honor of National Voter Registration Day, we share these thoughts on civic responsibility written by Governor Winter in 2003. They feel as relevant as ever.
“The most important office is that of citizen. It is the office that transmits all political authority.
Only through the collective judgement of private citizens, acting through their elected agents, are the public decisions made that affect the ultimate quality of our lives. Unfortunately too few of us take that office of citizen seriously enough. Too few of us choose to exercise the power that goes with that office. Too many of us do not bother to vote or to participate in the process of deciding vital public policy—of what kind of schools we shall have, of the quality of the environment in which we live, or the future of our most treasured institutions.
Therein lies the potential for our greatest peril… The gravest danger may lie in letting ourselves be overwhelmed by fear or suspicion or apathy or cynicism; by putting our petty self-serving personal interests ahead of community building; by making the question, “What’s in it for me?” our principal concern; in short by forgetting about that contract that we have with each other.
…If we have become a society riven by race and class where the gap between the rich and poor continues to widen, we shall pay a huge penalty in the quality of our lives and the stability of our country in the future.
A democratic society cannot leave these problems to be solved by blind chance or individual impulse. We must work at it together. We must have a shared vision that recognizes our mutual obligation. It is a vision that must be transmitted to others.
All of us must work at helping to create more knowledgeable and informed public opinion that will be able to stand up to the demagogues and the political hucksters… That is how you pay your dues for the privilege… of living in a free society.”
Citation: The Measure of Our Days: Writings of William F. Winter, edited by Dr. Andrew P. Mullins, Jr. (pp. 89-90)
Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd. Here’s what you can do to prepare starting now:
Register or Update your Registration
If you are in Mississippi, fill out this form and mail it to your county circuit clerk’s office by October 5th. If you need to update your address or other information, you can do so through the Secretary of State’s Y’all Vote website.
If you live outside of Mississippi, check your state’s registration procedures online here.
Check your ID
Mississippi requires voters to present a valid photo ID at the polls. Visit the Secretary of State’s Voter ID website to make sure your ID will be accepted, or apply for a voter ID card if you do not have one.
Find your Polling Location
Where you vote can change from election to election. Look up your polling location here, and start thinking about how you will be able to get there and back safely.
Serve as a Poll Worker
Every polling location is staffed by volunteer poll workers, and there is a critical need for additional workers this year to ensure health and safety – particularly young people without preexisting health vulnerabilities. Poll workers receive between $100-150 for their service. If you are interested, you can submit this online form.
Make a Plan
Mississippi is one of the only states that has not expanded mail-in voting due to the pandemic, so please plan ahead to vote safely in person on Election Day or by requesting an absentee ballot. To vote absentee, you must contact your circuit clerk and provide an approved excuse, including being under a “physician-imposed quarantine” or having a preexisting condition that increases COVID risk. You can request an absentee ballot by mail, which must be notarized and postmarked by Election Day, or you may vote absentee in person at your county clerk’s office until October 31st.