With all the crazy mail fraud talk by 45, and previous Russian meddling in both influencing the election through social media, and hacking the voting machines in search of vulnerabilities for the future, (as in this future-2020), a lot of talk has centered around how and when to vote. Many of my liberal, progressive, and Democrat friends, (I’m acknowledging they’re not all one and the same), are planning to vote by mail and to vote early. They hope that will preclude delayed results, and limit the chance of a machine being hacked.
I, on the other hand, voted in person at the earliest possible moment. Like my other cohorts who will mail in their vote as early as allowed, I don’t want any delay in counting my vote. I’m also putting blind trust on improvements made in machine voting, and with ridiculous optimism, I’m hoping any hacking will be caught much sooner than in the last election. That would be more likely if the Senate had passed a voting security bill passed by the House of Representatives. But alas, it did not.
Why voter turn out is important
Which brings me to the real issue. While we must plan for getting our votes in early, and having them counted, what’s most important is that we vote at all.
Voter turn-out has been an issue for decades. Low voter turn out is something I can’t wrap my head around. Having voted in every national election since I was eighteen, and in most state and local ones, people who don’t exercise the right that others died to guarantee are beyond my understanding. Except, there are reasons, both past and present, that people find it difficult to vote.
This gives away my age, but for shock value, I want readers to know I remember going to the polls with my parents when I was a young child, and watching them pay a poll tax so they could vote. I remember my mother writing a check. It was a small town, where everybody knew everybody. She didn’t have any trouble. But many others did.
Poll taxes were designed specifically during Jim Crow times to keep poorer people from voting.
At the time, that included many Black people, especially in the rural south. Now voter suppression is much more sophisticated, as in red-lining and gerrymandering, and it’s nearly as effective in terms of discouraging people from voting.
Poll taxes, literacy tests, and outright intimidation by official and unofficial poll watchers kept Jim Crow laws in place for decades by keeping Black and poor people from the polls. Current Republicans, the ones following 45, want to limit, or call into question, voting by groups who have been harmed by White House policies over the past three years.
Currently, the GOP is planning to send thousands more “poll watchers” to voting sites than in the past. They are fighting in courts to get permission for these watchers to come from all over, not just as volunteers from the Districts whose polls they would be watching, as has been law in some states. Why should this concern us?
We live in a country where an armed seventeen-year-old crossed a state border and “volunteered” to ride literal shotgun on protestors in Kenosha, shooting and killing two people and wounding another. He believed it was his patriotic duty, as inspired by speeches from a certain high-ranking official in the GOP. How can they guarantee that some poll watcher volunteers won’t go rogue? They can’t.
In the past, poll watchers used intimidation to keep BIPOC from voting. We haven’t come all that far, and this election will show that.
The removing of mail boxes, cutting staff overtime, and reducing postal offices hours, proposed by the new Post Office General, Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor, was an obvious and transparent attempt to reduce voting by mail.
After an outcry from Democrats and other organizations, the proposals were delayed until after the election. Still, there are anecdotal stories of mail boxes already having been removed. Postal Service workers and union members report the removal of hundreds of mail-sorting machines, which could have a major impact on counting votes, and counting them in time.
Who’s harmed by disruptions in mail service? People without transportation to poll sites. People who are quarantining due to COVID. The elderly, who have trouble getting to the polls, and who may be more at risk in public. College-age voters who choose to vote absentee in their home states and towns. Anyone who has to travel unreasonable distances to polling stations. Those at risk because of their health from standing in line for three hours to vote.
Polling stations have been reduced in several swing states as “cost-saving measures.” Moreover, COVID has been used as the reason to close more polling places. That means there are fewer places for people to cast their votes in person, making for longer wait times to vote, and longer lines at a time when large gatherings are discouraged. This is why being able to vote by mail is so urgent.
How are states and cities able to so drastically reduce polling locations? In 2013, the Republican-led Congress gutted the Voting Rights Act. The act was made into law as part of the Civil Rights Movement, and it allowed either the Attorney General or the United States District Court of the District of Columbia, to block changes that would keep historically disenfranchised BIPOC from voting.
What can we do? We can volunteer to provide transportation to the polls for the elderly, for people who have no transportation, and for people whose polling stations have been closed or moved.
Those of us who are healthy can volunteer to monitor polling stations or to work the polls. Since most poll workers are over sixty years old, younger ones of us can take their place.
When we volunteer to monitor polling stations, we can report voter suppression or intimidation to 1–866-OUR-VOTE.
Mostly, we can encourage everyone we know or influence to vote, and offer to help them get to the polls, or complete their mail-in votes accurately, (such as remembering to sign the outside of the envelope). Ask and help them to vote early, in whatever fashion they choose.
Do our lives depend on voting? The three Civil Rights workers registering Black people to vote in Mississippi, who were killed, thought so. Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman were murdered by the KKK, who were led to the young men by the Deputy Sherriff who had arrested them for “speeding.” They were ages 24, 21, and 20. No one was ever charged of murder, only of violating the victims’ civil rights. The movie “Mississippi Burning” tells their story.
Public outcry over their murders helped get the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. The Act that was gutted by Congress in 2013.
Previously Published on Medium