Projections show that as many as 150 million Americans will vote today, some having mailed in their ballots early amid a global pandemic that reached 500,000 cases in one day last week. Early voting numbers in Texas have already matched the total electorate from 2016, In a year when legendary civil rights leader John Lewis passed away, America has answered the call.
This will likely be the most engaged election in American history. The entire NBA has nearly registered to vote. Young people like myself, routinely blamed for low turnouts, have driven popular movements like March for Our Lives and Black Lives Matter over the last four years. Often maligned social media has become a powerful education infrastructure. (Yes, Facebook. We’re voting.)
A system that should encourage and support more representation has instead attempted to depress turnout. The president’s call to invalidate many of these votes shows a system far more complicated than just individual civic responsibility. “The Trump campaign and GOP entities engaged in more than 40 voting and ballot court cases around the country this year,” the Washington Post wrote. “In exactly none - zero - are they trying to make it easier for citizens to vote. In many, they are seeking to erect barriers.”
We need to vote. We also need our vote to count, equitably, with necessary tools available to those in different circumstances, particularly in today’s COVID-19 climate. Low turnout was often attributed to indifference, but today’s political awareness has fueled engagement despite the global pandemic. That enthusiasm has revealed an ugly truth: the current infrastructure does not exists for every American to vote, nor is it legal in same cases.
An underfunded US Postal Service — which Congress failed to bolstered early this year — expects to deliver ballots after Election Day. Some states maintain rules to not count absentee ballots until the polls close. The end of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 that Lewis fought to enact opened the door to a ripe new wave of voter suppression. This week the Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania to process ballots three days late, within nine days in North Carolina and not at all in Wisconsin. Texas failed, for now, to toss out more than 100,000 votes in a lawsuit.
In a startling undemocratic ruling, Justice Brett Kavanaugh excused not counting votes to “avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.”
The ominous words of Kavanaugh’s fellow Justice John Roberts in Shelby v. Holder, that “our country has changed,” were immediately followed by voter ID laws effectively answering that much is still the same. Disenfranchisement never died.
Long lines in predominantly minority neighborhoods, withheld funds to improve voting technology and mysterious election day outages are de-facto voter suppression. Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke well on the subject this week.
Over the last two hundred and fifty years, the country has been slowly correcting its founding failures that prevented a democracy. With Black Americans enslaved and women viewed as second-class citizens at constitutional conventions, high school history classes tout the strides made to ensure suffrage for every citizen. However, a longer look reveals those advances fell short of universality. Some states bar felons from the polls. Others close voter registration well in advance of Election Day while actively purging their enrollments.
The country doesn’t have to be perfect to earn respect. It has to do better. It shouldn’t be partisan, unpopular, or un-American to state unequivocally on CelticsBlog that every vote should be counted and every US citizen should be able to vote without hardship, cost, or restriction.
Unfortunately, it’s also not surprising that those ideals have not been met. Those in power care not about being consistent or being exposed as hypocrites on Twitter. They care only about maintaining power, and some people who agree with their ideals are willing to sacrifice the country’s to win.
The bottom line is that most of us have a voice in who wins.
The Constitution never officially granted the right to vote. The majority wanted to politically and economically benefit from the suppressed. Thus, a three-fifths compromise appeared in the founding document to count some slaves toward the House of Representatives counts, despite their lack of citizenship.
Now, the president insists that “(mail in) ballots are a disaster,” with no shame that he mailed-in his. No shame that military personnel vote by mail. No shame that the most vulnerable to COVID-19 may need to head to crowded polls to be certain their vote is counted.
Republicans showed similarly low levels of shame in turning around their state’s rights beliefs to push bans on non-family ballot deliveries — decisions normally not made at the federal level. They set up fake ballot drop-off sites in several states, the kind of fraud they’re searching for as a basis for disenfranchising minority voters. Projection is an art.
The white voter is becoming the political minority in America and while I won’t bicker over the Electoral College or other self-preserving systems the country utilizes to ensure this new minority rule, I will use this platform to say that not a single ballot should be discounted on this Election Day. Vote in person if you can. Help friends deliver their absentee ballots directly to board of election locations. If you’re uncertain about your mail-in vote’s status, call to double check or vote in person wherever legal.
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming all allow same-day voter registration. If you don’t believe your vote matters in some of these states, scan your essential Senate, House and other local races happening across the country where your vote holds immensely more weight than it does for president.
Maine alone could swing the Senate. Ballot initiatives like “ranked choice voting” in Massachusetts could transform us away from a two-party system many are currently bemoaning.
This is the most important election in this country’s history. It will determine how we conduct our political dialogue firstly, with critical moments for the pandemic, environment, income inequality and of course voting rights all major points of difference between the two parties.
Any system that doesn’t consider every possible American on these issues is one we should not be proud of. We should praise and more importantly support the work many are doing to get to that point by voting ourselves.