“Democracy Dies in Darkness”
October 13, 2020, provided a surreal moment as I stood in line to vote, masked, socially distanced, with hands sanitized.
I thought of the many thousands of women who made this possible. They marched, were pelted with tomatoes, endured verbal and physical abuse, and were imprisoned so that I can stand in this line and vote, thanks to the 26 words of the 19th amendment: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex,” signed in 1920.
Fast forward to 1965. Unfortunately, African American women and Native American women were not included in the 19th amendment. With the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 poll taxes, literacy tests, and other means of discrimination were outlawed, and women and men of color were freed from one more barrier to vote. As we vote this year, we need to thank John Lewis and many others on the bridge to freedom for the right and opportunity to vote.
- In Texas and Ohio, the Governor is only allowing one ballot dropbox per county for those wishing to
vote absentee. Harris Country has a population of 4.7 million residents and ONE dropbox. Franklin County, OH, where our Columbus Motherhouse is located, has 1.4 million residents, one dropbox and one early voting site. Some residents have to drive 30 miles to drop off a ballot.
- Postmaster Louis DeJoy has removed 671 letter sorters that can separate 35,000 papers in an hour. These are vital for counting votes rapidly. In addition, he has removed numerous mailboxes around the United States and eliminated overtime for postal workers around the United States before a national election.
- Numerous polling sites have been eliminated around the United States, including 1,300 sites in southern states and 320 sites in Arizona. As a result, many voters are standing in line for six to eight hours.
- Some states that allow early voting are not allowing votes to be counted until November 3, which means we more than likely will not know the outcome of the election until much later. And the ever-present mantra of “election fraud” will be heard.
- In North Dakota in 2018, Native Americans were deprived of voting because they did not have a street address. Reservations do not have street addresses!
- In Dodge City, KS, the polling site was moved from a central location to the outskirts of town, more than a mile away from the nearest bus stop, making it difficult for poor and Hispanic citizens to vote.
The theme of the 2020 election seems to be “suppress the vote,” especially in areas where African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans live.
Congressional leaders and Presidents need to become interested in enabling free and fair elections by creating automatic voter registration, making voter registration portable between states, providing adequate numbers of voting sites that eliminate voters standing in line for hours, replacing antiquated voting machines (remember “hanging chads”?) and providing less complicated mail-in ballots. Add to the list the ongoing problem of foreign Russian interference (Russia, China, Iran) not being taken seriously.
There is a reason only 55% of eligible voters actually voted in 2016. Barriers are real and will remain as long as we the voters do not demand that they change.
May your voting experience be unencumbered and a time of thanksgiving for all who made it possible.