Register while you still can

Choose or Lose, Vote or Die, Voto Latino — It doesn’t matter which slogan you prefer, because actions speak louder than words. And if you haven’t registered to vote in Florida by today at five, the only thing you’ll be left with when Election Day comes on Nov. 2 is a useless get-out-the-vote T-shirt and no voice.

No one knows better than the dozens of disenfranchised voters during the 2000 presidential elections how important exercising your rights has become. Politicians seeking to keep their jobs know it too. That could easily have been Al Gore reading “My Pet Goat” to a group of elementary students on Sept. 11 had a few hundred more people gone to the polls. Just a few hundred.

MTV has run a quirky voter-awareness campaign this election season. Their “Vote for something” commercials have a non-partisan theme. It doesn’t matter if you vote for corn rows or afros, Doritos or Cheetos. It matters that you register and that you vote.

Hip Hop mogul Sean “P. Diddy” Combs began Citizen Change, a non-profit organization with the goal of educating and motivating millions of Americans to make their voices heard. Combs has done what only he can — make wearing an “I Voted” sticker on Nov. 2 the hottest fashion statement of the year.

Celebrity after celebrity has jumped on the get-out-the-vote band wagon this year.

Singer Christina Aguilera used her imagination to come up with a visually stimulating billboard campaign for the voter awareness organization Declare Yourself. In the advertisements, black lace criss-crosses about Aguilera’s mouth like a corset and tears stream down her face. “Only You Can Silence Yourself,” the ad says. Aguilera said she’ll vote for the first time in her life on Nov. 2.

Even one of Charlie’s Angels — Drew Barrymore — admitted to the world in a recent documentary that she is a “repressed” voter. “Why don’t young people vote?” Barrymore set out to discover as she toured the United States and talked with the youth of America and the politicians who ignore them. Maybe the constant re-broadcasting of her documentary on MTV will show someone it’s never too late to get involved.

The 26th Amendment in 1972 lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. But since then, the percentage of participation among the age of those eligible to vote has continued to decline. Some political spectators believe that those who register to vote are more likely to exercise their right and show up at the polls on Election Day. Let’s test that theory.

It’s our duty as Americans to tell the politicians what we think about the job they do for us. It’s a privilege that so many have died for and suffered for us to have. Many of the people who fought for voting rights years ago died before they saw a change. And change hasn’t been around that long. It was only 1944 when the Smith v. Albright court case declared the “white primary” unconstitutional — well within our parents’ lifetime. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 ordered states to cease discriminatory actions in registered black voters.

This is serious business. If you have not registered to vote, ask the first person you see after reading this to give you directions to the Supervisor of Elections office. Drive there as quickly — and as safely — as you can, before they close for the business day.

You can’t escape the message. You need to vote. You must vote. Your future — and the future of your children — depends on it.

Kevin Graham is a former Oracle Editor in Chief and a registered voter.