State House Rally urges people to get out and vote
Many political events focus on persuading people to vote for a particular candidate or party. Saturday at the State House, the message was different. Several local groups gathered, and not a word was said about what names anyone should check. The message was simply to vote.
The March on the Polls rally was organized by March On, the women-led group which led the Women’s Marches in January 2017. The national leadership of the organization sent its March On bus to Columbia Saturday, and the bus picked up students from Benedict College and seniors from several local senior centers, taking them to cast their votes early as allowed in Richland County.
“We are very committed in South Carolina to increasing the number of people who participate in our political system,” said Catherine Fleming Bruce, co-founder of the South Carolina chapter of March On and leader of Black Voters Matter. “We have many, many needs in our community and we need everyone in our community to participate. Voting is just the lower part, but it’s a critical part of opening the door for the changes that we want.”
Those riding the bus joined long lines of people voting at 2020 Hampton St., and some then went on to the State House for the rally. Two elected officials, State Rep. Leon Howard and Columbia Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine took part and supported the effort to get more people to vote, with Devine telling those at the rally that they have a lot of work to do.
“People who come out here don’t need convincing. They’re already voting. They’re already engaged. We need to engage the folks who feel like their votes don’t matter,” Devine said. “I talk to people every day who unfortunately are so disenchanted that they don’t vote. All the craziness we wake up every day and see on the news is because people like us, good people, don’t come out and vote and get engaged. We can make a difference.”
Dave Crockett of Columbia’s chapter of Black Lives Matter echoed the call for all to vote, even those who believe doing so is fruitless.
“We need everybody out at the polls on Tuesday, even those of you who think there’s nothing to vote for,” he said. “Voting has to be a part of every kind of change that we can make, but it cannot be the only thing. We need votes and we need voices.”
Devine’s three children (ages 13, 8, and 20 months) joined her at the rally, and she said they were the reason she was there, and the reason voting and encouraging others to do so means so much to her.
“They can’t vote, but the folks I vote for on Tuesday will make a huge difference in their lives,” she said.
A group of University of South Carolina students also attended the rally in hopes of encouraging their peers to vote.
“The issues need our voice now more than ever,” student Jake Fortenberry said. Asked what advice he would give other young people, he added “Your voice does matter and will matter for years to come.”
Information for South Carolina voters including polling place locations and sample ballots is available at scvotes.org.