As the west coast burns, calls for justice for Breonna Taylor endure, and days steadily blur with COVID-19 showing few signs of dissipating in the U.S., the 2020 general election may feel like it’s taking place tomorrow morning or months from now. Well, we counted, and the election (Tuesday, Nov. 3) is in less than 40 days.
Trump’s lie that voting by mail would be fraudulent is just a recent episode in the United States’ longstanding history of voter disenfranchisement—particularly in communities of color, which has unfortunately made the right to vote more of a privilege. The pandemic only deepens the pre-existing inequities that already make it challenging for folks with criminal records or disabilities to perform their civic duty. In North Carolina, once home to poll taxes and literacy tests, absentee mail-in ballots from Black voters are already being rejected at four times the rate of white voters. In Texas, vote-by-mail is not even accessible to those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
This is more important than ever.
Of course, voting alone will not solve all of the problems we are facing as a nation. But, as Patrisse Cullors (co-founder of Black Lives Matter) recently told Marie Claire, “I vote because I recognize that voting is not just what you do to get an elected official in office…It’s the organizing you do before voting that builds the power of the people, so they can make decisions for themselves and their communities.” Because of these unprecedented circumstances, with our health and a peaceful transfer of power in jeopardy, planning your vote or figuring out how to support the voters in your life is more important than ever.
Check your registration and help others register
We know you saw this advice coming, but it’s a key, two-minute step in ensuring our voices are heard. Plan Your Vote, an arts initiative from the lovely vote.org is a bit more exciting than your regular polling site search engine. Plus, if you also love to worry, you can make sure you’re properly registered using the “VERIFY” feature.
Study up on your local election & check your state’s voting requirements
A Washington Post map has a breakdown of where each state stands within the country’s federal election but you can and should also study up on your local elections in order to vote down-ballot. As we learned in 2016, locally elected officials can create change on a national level in our electoral system and offer us hope from the ground-up. Also, make sure you know of any rules within your state—including registration deadlines. New York, for example, requires you to register at least 25 days in advance, while Voter ID laws often deny your right to vote unless you’re adequately informed. The ACLU also helps you Know Your Rights.
Ask yourself, ‘Who can I reach?’
If you’re a Biden supporter, and you think his “Pero Ya No” campaign ad wouldn’t really motivate the people in your life to go vote; ask yourself, what would? You can use everything from the language(s) you speak to your understanding of a religious community to channel particular communities you are positioned to support and sway.
Look out for yourself & your neighbors
This transcends hand sanitizer, I promise. In a recent episode of Latino USA, a political scientist at UC Berkeley Lisa Garcia Bedolla said that Latines are the least likely to vote by mail, in part due to a distrust of government. So far, the number of 85+-year-old abuelitas who have told me they’re going to the polling station in person come November is both inspiring and frightening due to the ongoing pandemic.
If you’re able, help elders and other high-risk people in your community register to vote, vote-by-mail, or vote early safely. Seniors made up 66% of voters in the 2018 midterm elections! If you didn’t mail your ballot in time, check to see if your state will let you hand-deliver your absentee ballot to the local Board of Elections.
Fight voter suppression & build power locally
Voter suppression can be as local as a wheelchair inaccessible polling site and as widespread as Georgia’s primary meltdown, in which absentee ballots never arrived by mail, and predominantly Black communities waited under the June sun for hours on end to cast their votes. If you can’t serve as a poll worker or watcher or can’t drop everything to campaign in a swing state, try donating to, or volunteering with, organizations such as Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight.