Fighting Voter Suppression | National Democratic Training Committee

Voter suppression has been brought to the forefront because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has exposed both the historical and current faults in our voting system. The ability to vote should be a fundamental right for every person. Unfortunately, that isn’t true for many.

Voter suppression can be dated back to Jim Crow laws. The damage done by generations of suppression is not something reversed or undone overnight.

In part one, we discussed some history around voter suppression in America. Today we cover how we, as a country, can make right what previous generations put in place.

Vote-By-Mail vs. Absentee Voting

First, let’s discuss some semantics, Vote-By-Mail verses Absentee Voting. They are two sides of the same coin.

Vote-By-Mail is the process in which registered voters receive a ballot via mail that allows them to cast their votes by mail.

Absentee Voting is when a formal request is made by the voter to have a ballot sent to them so the voter can vote when they are not able to vote in person.

Both of these allow voting when you can’t physically vote in person be it because:

  • You are active military out of the country at the time of voting.
  • You are away from the state in which you registered to vote.
  • You are not able to leave your home for a medical reason.
  • Or because there is a pandemic and it is not safe to vote in person.

The above are all very valid reasons to be physically absent on election day and choose to vote-by-mail.

Pros and Cons of Vote-By-Mail

Vote-By-Mail Pros

Vote-by-mail’s biggest pro is convenience. The convenience of time, of comfort, of accessibility.

Voters can cast their ballot on their time. This aspect especially resonates with busy Americans who need the flexibility to vote outside of election day and early voting.

Voters have the time to research who’s on the ballot from their own homes. When a voter is uninformed about a candidate, they have the time to review candidates’ platforms and decide who gets their vote. A well-informed voter makes a democracy work for them.

Any voter who requires physical, cognitive, auditory, or visual assistance can receive that assistance from the comfort of their own home.

Voters can cast a vote if there isn’t a polling location within miles of where they live.

A big pro then and now for voting-by-mail is voters can stay at home to ensure their safety and the safety of others while exercising their right to vote in any election.

Vote-By-Mail Cons

Something that has become clear in 2020 is how much is unclear about voting-by-mail. For many, this election is the first time they will be voting-by-mail. If there was ever a time for consistent, fact-based information coming from our leaders, this is it.

A lot of information, true and false, is out there about voting-by-mail. It is up to the individual voter to seek out information on how to vote-by-mail in their state. And those individuals probably have a lot of questions. Hopefully, state resources can easily give answers to those questions.

Why is that?

Individual states set vote-by-mail regulations. Currently, only five states (Washington, Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii) use this practice as default, while 21 other states use it for smaller races.

Recent primaries have shown a high number of vote-by-mail ballots revoked because of errors made by the voter. Two commonly reported errors could be avoided if voters were better instructed on how to fill out their ballots and when to mail their ballots, so they arrive on time.

The ever-changing status of the United States Postal Service contributes to the lack of confidence in a ballot arriving on time to be counted or arriving at all.

Vote-By-Mail removes the experience of stepping into a polling location and seeing a ballot cast with one’s own eyes. The distrust of a vote counting runs deep for many.

During a pandemic, the pros of voting-by-mail outweigh the cons because of the decrease in travel to polling locations, human interaction, and minimizing touch of other surfaces.

Fighting Voter Suppression: Here is where you start

Vote-By-Mail and voter suppression are not mutually exclusive terms. On the contrary, they are very much related. Rep Ilhan Omar tweeted that

“not providing nation-wide vote by mail during a pandemic is voter suppression.”

Getting To Work!

To avoid repetition of history, such as voter suppression events that happened in Kentucky, the 2020 Florida voter purge, or the seemingly never-ending efforts of the Trump administration to stop people from voting, we have some pointers that will help you get started.

A great place to start is People can register to vote, check voter registration, even set up election reminders when it’s time to vote.

Know voting rights. There are laws in place to make sure all votes count. Brush up on Voter Laws for your state.

Encourage your community to report intimidation to the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español).

The 2020 Census is vital for congressional and state legislative districts and how votes count. There is still time to be counted in the 2020 census to have an impact on future elections. Make sure your community knows the deadline to be counted 2020 census is now September 30.

Encourage senators to pass the VRAA; this would help in reinstating important protections against voter suppression that were left out when the Voting Rights Act of 2013.

Ballot boxes are a safe and easy way to vote-by-mail. For the states that have them, they are conveniently located throughout your county. Make sure you look up where your closest ballot box is by county/state.

Use platforms like Zoom to organize your community. Use digital platforms to answer questions and help people feel confident about voting options in this very important election.

Pledge to vote in advance. NDTC, Run For Something, Emerge, Ballot Ready, Victory Fund, #VOTEPROCHOICE, and Progressive Turnout Project have partnered to encourage and support early voting.

Support Vote-By-Mail Efforts in Your Own Community

NDTC has some fantastic courses available at our Online Academy to help you support voting by mail and voting in advance in your own community.

Build a Vote-By-Mail Program for Your Campaign” teaches the phases of a vote-by-mail program, how data and conversations lead to voter turnout, and how to have both application and ballot chase conversations with voters.

Take the course right now for free.

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