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“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard,” said Harvey Milk, the seminal gay rights activist and politician assassinated in 1978.

With LGBT equality hanging in the balance of the 2022 mid-term elections, these words have never rung truer, and represent a critically urgent call to action for our community and allies.

In the wake of recent Supreme Court developments, it’s clear there is nothing sacred and even basic human rights, like the right to privacy, are in great peril. Today it’s the liberty to choose an abortion that has been stripped from Americans, tomorrow it may be the right to love someone of the same sex.

Make no mistake: voting is the only effective way to ensure all voices are heard and keep these rights from being taken away from us. The reality in Florida is that believers in equality are grossly outnumbered by anti-LGBT and anti-democracy lawmakers, and strong voter turnout is our only hope to tip the scales in favor of equality. On Aug. 23, we must go to the polls en masse to protect our democracy.

Our Most Historically Decisive Battle Yet

These mid-term elections will see incumbent Florida Governor Ron DeSantis running for a second term. DeSantis, a rising star on the Republican national stage, clearly exploited Florida’s 2022 legislative session to advance his political ambitions by attacking the LGBT community. He will certainly continue to erode LGBT rights if reelected as governor, preparing for a near-certain presidential run. Unless we want to see this conniving power monger as POTUS in 2024, we must first prevent him from winning a second term as Florida governor. In August, we will decide which pro-equality Democratic candidate is best suited to defeat DeSantis in the November general election.

DeSantis isn’t the only enemy of equality currently in office, however. The Republican contingent in our state legislature can fairly be summed up as a gang of party careerists pandering to its far-right base by waging culture wars against LGBT people, women, and people of color.

Nearly as important as voting DeSantis out of office is filling as many Senate and House seats as possible with pro-equality candidates, including the Senate seat currently held by Trumpian sycophant Marco Rubio. With Roe v. Wade and other supreme court decisions reversing years of precedent, these elections will not only determine the future of LGBTQ equality in Florida, but that of American democracy itself.

Broward County Must be the Tipping Point

During the last four election cycles, Broward County has lagged the rest of Florida’s election turnout by an average of nearly 3%. Why does this matter? Because in order to win these midterm elections, Broward’s progressive voter turnout needs to at least meet, if not exceed, the average across the rest of the state.

To put into perspective just how much these percentage points matter when it comes to Broward’s voter turnout, a 1% increase in votes is equivalent to approximately 12,672 additional progressive votes cast. In 2000, Al Gore lost the presidential election to George W. Bush by a mere 537 votes counted in Florida. In 2014, Charlie Crist would have won the Florida Governor’s race if Broward’s turnout had been 5% higher, even while still falling behind the rest of Florida by 1%. And in 2018, Andrew Gillum would have become Florida governor if Broward could have exceeded the state turnout by just 0.8%.

To say that every vote matters is not some throwaway political platitude. In Broward County, it’s a strategic and realistic path forward that we must contend with if we hope to be governed by pro-equality leaders moving forward.

Democracy’s Strength is in Numbers

We urge every individual in our LGBT community, allies, and any American who values living in a democratic free society to make their voices heard on Aug. 23. This is our only chance to elect leaders who will safeguard our hard-won legal protections for issues of all stripes, including same-sex marriage, nondiscrimination in employment and housing, and more.

Make sure you register right away and become familiarized with all the pro-equality candidates so you can cast your votes accordingly when the time comes. Make sure you request your vote-by-mail ballots in July if that’s how you plan to vote. Find a way to get involved in your community, either through organizations rallying voters, or by spreading the word among your family, friends, and neighbors. What matters most is that we all do our part, however small, while time is still on our side.

At SAVE, we are making every effort to turn out the vote in South Florida. Join us as we fight for the future of American democracy.

Orlando Gonzales is the executive director of SAVE.