Opinion » Rhetoric & Reason

Voting as good trouble



Can you believe we're still struggling for the single most fundamental right of a democracy? The right to vote.

U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia)literally had his skull cracked for marching in support of voting rights. In a posthumous op-ed published in The New York Times, he admonished us to carry on his work through the simple act of voting:

"Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it."

Lewis' warning could not be more urgent. In the face of falling poll numbers, President Donald Trump wants to derail the vote and undermine the November election. He wrongly believes that vote-by-mail leads to fraud. He wants to delay the election. He even threatened to sue the state of Nevada after it passed a bill expanding mail-in voting.

Behind closed doors, Trump Republicans admit they need to suppress your vote in order to win. And don't be fooled: They know that voting by mail doesn't cut back the number of their own voters. In fact, senior citizens typically skew Republican—and they are a group that votes most often by mail.

So what's the problem for Republicans? Two things: First, during a pandemic they know that fewer people would vote at the polls. Since they're significantly down in the polls, voting by mail has to be stopped because, well, it's too easy to vote.

Second, voting by mail gets around their backup plan. In key states throughout the nation, GOP legislatures have reduced in-person polling stations to make it harder for American citizens to vote, especially those in neighborhoods of color. What's worrisome for the GOP? If you vote by mail, there's no waiting. And, again, more folks will vote.

In his eulogy for John Lewis, former President Barack Obama said that this administration is "attacking our voting rights with surgical precision ... . Even as we sit here, there are those in power who are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting—by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws ... even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that's going to be dependent on mail-in ballots so people don't get sick."

What kind of president sabotages the U.S. Postal Service to make it difficult to manage mail-in ballots? Republican donor Postmaster General Louis DeJoy enacted new regulations that prohibit overtime and guarantee slow service.

What will the vote look like here in SLO? Voters everywhere are hearing Trump's dark propaganda, but the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Party wants you to know that vote-by-mail is safe, easy, and secure. They have organized a legion of volunteers to inform voters about vote-by-mail because they want every vote to count in this crucial election.

There are those who say, "Well, what does it matter? California will never vote for Trump." Maybe, but not only will a large popular vote margin help to right the ship of state should Biden win, your vote for down-ballot candidates will also help to right the municipal and county and school board ships as well.

Given the threat of COVID-19, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered that the general election shall be an all-mail election. As a result, all registered voters in California will receive a vote-by-mail ballot.

You'll probably receive your ballot around Oct. 5. Here's what you do: Open the ballot, mark your choices, put it back in the postage-paid return envelope, sign the envelope, drop it back in the mail as soon as possible. Done.

All ballots postmarked by Nov. 3 and received within 17 days of that date will be counted. You can also drop your ballot at the County Clerk's Office or at one of the 28 vote centers located in the county. The vote centers provide another option to vote early and in person. They will be open for four consecutive days through Nov. 3. And if you wake up on Nov. 3 and realize that somehow you neglected to register, you can register and vote that very day at the nearest vote center.

Because all ballots are secured with unique bar codes, you can track the status of your individual ballot. If you're concerned, sign up at sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-status/wheres-my-ballot to receive notices about when your ballot should have been delivered to you and when it was received by the County Clerk's Office. If your ballot's rejected, you can also take steps to have it accepted. Why might your ballot get rejected? The most prevalent causes include forgetting to sign the envelope and sending it in too late.

Look, this is the most important election in our lifetimes, right? So, sign the envelope and mail it early! Simple.

Let's vote. Let's make good trouble. Δ

Amy Hewes is a grassroots activist. Reach her through the editor at [email protected] or write a response for publication and email it to [email protected].

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