In a 2014 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press study, it was found that 6 in 10 voting-age adults would not show up at the polls on Election Day. Mostly young, 70 percent of nonvoters were younger than 50 years old and classified as a racial or ethnic minority (African American or Hispanic), the research alluded to the potential for this segment to actually turn the election in favor of one candidate over another.

What the election research did not document, however, were the prevailing attitudes about disenfranchisement, particularly within the Black community, that keep the most marginalized from exercising their rights.

President Barack Obama voted in Chicago on Oct. 9. Have you voted? (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

And while Pew’s focus on the young swings the focus of the lack of civic engagement onto generations of Americans – White and Black – whose public school educations slowly removed courses in civics, government, and citizenship from their offerings for more technical electives like economics, District voters who have lost interest in voting span all ages and socioeconomics, and offer a range of rationale.

“I don’t believe that either candidate in this election even understands the position of president, so I refuse to vote for either one,” Ward 8 resident Hakim Lord told the AFRO. “We act as if the vote is really important, but then we cast them for whoever is there. Neither has my interest at heart and so neither will have my vote.”

Lord’s sentiment rings familiar to many Blacks across the nation. While many have said that because of the historical battle to gain and maintain the right to vote they will go through the motions, many in the D.C. metropolitan area expressed feeling like second-class citizens, which made voting seem hypocritical.

“Whether it is a local or national election, the candidates are talking down to people, they are lecturing and posturing, but never actually asking what we need or how best they can help the county, city, or nation achieve those goals,” Riverdale, Md. resident Felicia Norton-Hines told the AFRO. “Voting also means holding officials accountable once in office, but our police, schools, housing, roads, water, and healthcare are all falling apart around us, and the people we voted in are at the wheel. I will not drink anymore of the Kool-Aid.”

According to the Election Project, a think tank charting voting access and participation, Americans as a whole have been largely choosing not to vote in both local and national elections, with less than 50 percent of African-American voters casting ballots before 2008. During the Obama elections 2008 and 2012, record numbers of all voting segments, including Hispanics came out, with African-American participation reaching nearly 80 percent in both instances. By the 2014 elections, that percentage had spiraled to less than 30 percent.

Norton-Hines said that despite living comfortably on a six-figure salary and holding advanced degrees in economics, the despair of the electorate will eventually lead more voters to join the ranks of those less educated, living in poverty, and classified as disenfranchised. “The shift began years ago, but has become apparent with a presidential election where an ex-President’s wife, and a blow-hard businessman with no political career to speak of are the choices for the highest position in the land,” Norton-Hines said. “Since not voting will count against the other candidate, we are forced to choose between poisons.”

Others, like Trinity College senior Bernita McGrath, told the AFRO that despite vicious ribbing from friends and family about not voting, she is resolute that casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, is useless. “Voting has been exposed as the ultimate racket in my view because you have a sitting Congress who holds the federal government hostage for their own agendas and refuses to listen to the will of the very people who put them in office. That’s bullying dressed up as democracy,” the Michigan native said. “The stereotype of the non-voter is poor, uneducated, and usually non-white, but the truth is every segment sees sick Flint residents, astronomical student loan debt, and the loss of reasonably-priced housing choking the nation, while the people voted to manage these types of issues, fight among themselves.”

Given the shift in attitude, there are local organizations that are reaching out to Blacks to encourage them to vote. “Too often Blacks vote for candidates, but not collectively around issues. In this way, we continue to end up with leaders who look good on paper, but whose positions on things like early education, affordable housing, and mandatory minimum sentencing works contrary to our beliefs,” Duncan, who is a member of BlackGirlsVote, told the AFRO. “Good voting habits mean electing those with our best interest at heart, rather than people who simply look like us and when there is no one in the running who meets that criteria, we still vote, but begin grooming the leaders we need from within our own ranks.”

George H. Lambert Jr., president and CEO of the Greater Washington Urban League, told the AFRO that the organization’s Thursday Network, a group of young professionals ranging in age from 25-40, had moved steadily throughout the nation engaging with young people and explaining the importance of voting.

“They have certainly moved around the community to ensure that people are registered to vote, know where their local polling centers are located, and the date of the election. So they have been very engaged,” he said. “I will tell you that when we make a decision not to vote, we dishonor our ancestors. It’s so critical that we vote because of the price that was paid to have that opportunity.”