August Update from SOAR Director Julie Stein

Take Your Vote Seriously. Your Life, Our Future Depends Upon It. 

If there is one thing you take seriously after reading this, please let it be my advice to visit to look up your voter registration status and find out your options for voting early or by mail. 

Now, let me tell you why. 

States and localities all across America are struggling to conduct primary elections during an unforeseen global health pandemic we’ve all come to know as COVID-19.

In an attempt to ensure voters don’t have to choose between potentially exposing themselves to a life-threatening virus and exercising their right to vote, some states sent mail ballot request forms to every voter.

Some extended early voting hours. Others, in fact many, consolidated polling locations in an attempt to minimize voter contact which inadvertently resulted in long lines with voters waiting hours to cast their ballot.

While early and mail balloting efforts have not been flawless, countless voters who waited until Election Day to cast their ballot faced extreme hardships at their polling locations. 

In states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Kentucky and Georgia, voters reported waiting in line for hours (some many as eight hours) to vote. 

The example of Jefferson County, Kentucky, will answer your obvious question as to why voters in many states forced to wait so long. Prior to Election Day, the county consolidated polling locations for some 616,000 voters into just one site. You read that correctly. One polling location for 616,000 voters.

This example is drastic, but certainly not unique. And, it is exactly why every voter needs to take serious consideration for early and mail balloting opportunities that are available to them. 

But let’s be honest. Voter access and disenfranchisement is not a new problem. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has popularized the inequities and structural barriers that have plagued our democratic process for years. 

The 2013 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is one of the most far-reaching and detrimental rulings in history. When written, the Act required certain states and localities with a history of racial discrimination to seek approval from the federal government for any changes they wished to make to voting procedures at the local level.

The idea was to create transparency and an opportunity to vet voting reforms prior to voters being disenfranchised. Now, the burden to prove discrimination falls on people who have already been disenfranchised rather than on the federal government. 

This change in process has created an environment where some states have been rewriting voting laws haphazardly and without reason, and voters (particularly those of color, the elderly, and young people) are paying the price. 

Under COVID-19 and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, a worst-case scenario is being realized with regard to our most vital civil right:  the right to vote. 

Don’t wait until Election Day to decide how you will cast your ballot. 

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