Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Safe Voting is a Fundamental Right of Americans

Many who know me often hear me say that advocacy is the most impactful way we can improve our government in the years between elections. It’s the way we can change policies beyond simply voting. But...what if we can’t even safely vote? 

Everyone should be nervous watching how the April 7th Democratic primary unfolded in Wisconsin. National and state officials understood COVID-19 to be transmittable at that point and the state had a stay-at-home order that started on March 25. In-person voting took place despite the governor’s attempt to postpone and shift the election to a vote by mail system. Citizens had to choose between exposing themselves to a deadly virus or exercising their right to vote. Today, NBC and NPR reported seven known cases of coronavirus were traced to voting.

What does this mean for all of us facing an election in November with no vaccine available? There doesn’t seem to be enough time to develop and provide a vaccine to the public, but there IS time to figure out a system for us to vote by mail. Sure, it feels both social and empowering to vote in person. Yet I’ve had to vote by mail before, and it was no less an act of powerful citizenship to do it that way. Heck, even Donald Trump (who opposes voting by mail) votes by mail.

Wendy Smith, a fellow mom-advocate and author of “Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World,” has been mobilizing grassroots activists to advocate for such a system. She says, “Voting is the fundamental way we participate in our democracy. In a time of crisis like this, the right to exercise our participation must be made safe and trustworthy.”

I agree with her wholeheartedly. Voting is the most basic way we can make change to protect Americans in poverty and strengthen foreign policy protecting the health of everyone on the globe. It’s the most efficient way we can dismantle systematic racism that keeps citizens locked in a cycle of oppression. All the daily advocacy I do can be considered as EXTRA on top of our right to remove irresponsible leaders. Our right to vote should be guaranteed when we have the technology to do so.

Wendy continues, “Especially when facing a national crisis like the pandemic, we must be able to choose our leaders through voting. It is imperative that we protect this right by making it safe and secure.”

You know how candidates say each and every year that "voting is important now more than ever"? Well, guess what? It's during times of crisis that all the cracks in our systems are laid bare for everyone to see and we can see the weaknesses of our leaders. It's in times like these when people in poverty and racial minorities suffer the most. People are dying and suffering in hunger. We need to be able to elect the best possible leaders to guide us through the worst possible times. So, yes. Voting is important...now more than ever.

How can we take action?

1) Missourians can call the office of Governor Mike Parson at (573) 751-3222 and sign a petition to call on the state to make it safer for all to vote by allowing for absentee voting during the coronavirus pandemic. The Kansas City Star reported that the Governor does not consider “fear of spreading or contracting COVID-19 or abiding by a stay-at-home order” to be legally permissible reasons for Missourians to cast an absentee ballot.

2) Any American can use this link to urge senators to adopt Senator Warren’s plan in the next COVID-19 relief package assist states in expanding vote-by-mail for this November’s election.

If we start now, it is entirely possible that we can have a dependable system to vote by mail in place by the fall.