More people voting can only be a good thing for a healthy democracy.
As we outlined in our Divided by Design report, we heard loud and clear that protecting democracy is important– not only because of the ways Black Americans have been disenfranchised, but also because of the way our current democratic processes keep Black and White communities divided. For too long, some in this country, especially across the South, have put up barriers to voter participation. In response to this pandemic, we have the opportunity to say “no more.”
The scenes from elections in Wisconsin last week highlighted why focusing on voting access and rights is so important. It is criminal that people are being forced to choose between their health and their Constitutional right to vote. As the coronavirus continues to affect communities across our country, health care and local leaders must continue to stress the importance of social and physical distancing. And because distancing remains a priority, leaders at all levels of government must also focus on finding alternatives to traditional, in-person voting. One necessitates the other.
There is at least one solution to this situation– implementing nationwide vote-by-mail. Mail voting is the best method to comply with social distancing protocols.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists postal balloting as its number one recommendation in order to reduce anticipated crowd sizes at polling locations, and in response many states have considered a number of temporary reforms that include expanding availability of absentee ballots for their residents, extending-early voting periods, and transferring polling location away from vulnerable populations.
Some southern states–including Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and West Virginia–have already begun implementing processes by which their citizens can vote by mail and maintain their safety during this trying time. But too many haven’t yet made a commitment to doing so.
Beyond ensuring healthy and equal access to the ballot box, mail voting also has been a proven way to increase overall electoral participation.
For more on vote by mail and how southern states are (or aren’t preparing), please check out our new blog. There, we’ll post weekly reflections on news and current policy debates related to E Pluribus Unum’s mission of bridging the race and class divide in the South. Last week’s post was about the need for disaggregated racial testing and death data to address current and existing disparities.
On a final note, despite how COVID-19 has highlighted the major disparities in our society, I want to note how much this crisis has reminded us that we are all in this together. Far too often, we forget just how connected we all are. White, Black, or Brown, rich or poor, rural or urban, we all depend on one another in ways big and small. It may take a health crisis to remind us of this, but it was always the case. And it will remain that way when this current crisis has passed. We cannot forget this.
Please stay connected with us online by visiting our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages. My thoughts and prayers remain with everyone during this unprecedented time.
Founder and President