I did not write a blog post last night because I wanted to instead remind my American readers that Election Day is today!
Election Day this year may not have the sort of attention that it had last year, but the elections this year are important in their own way. The importance of today’s elections are clear in places electing people to lead major cities (like New York City) and states (like New Jersey and Virginia). But elections for school board seats, county legislatures, and local sheriffs are also extremely important in their own way and will have an impact on the lives of many. Who we elect (or who we don’t elect) will help determine which problems get addressed, which ones are left unaddressed, and which ones end up worsening. The people we elect can also help determine the course of the current COVID-19 pandemic where we live and/or work.
So, as I just came back from voting in several races over here in New York City, including a vote for our next mayor, I’m going to end this post with one word, and one word only…
With Election Day happening next week in the United States, I hope that my readers in the States are making plans to vote, have made plans to vote, or have already voted. While there is no presidential election on the ballot this year, unlike last year, many of us have races at the local and state level—races involving representatives who, if elected, will in many ways have a greater impact on our day-to-day lives than who is elected as President of the United States every four years.
However, with Election Day coming up, I think we should talk about more than just the importance of voting. We should talk about the importance of parents having not just themselves, but also their kids, involved in the political process.
But why? Hasn’t it been said that the two topics to avoid at the dinner table are religion and politics?
While I understand why people want to avoid talking about politics at the dinner table (politics can be so stressful, frustrating, and at times infuriating), it is important to talk about politics at dinner (and other times), including and especially around your children, so that they can get exposure to:
Who their representatives are, at all levels of government
What some of the major issues are, at least from the perspectives of the parents or guardians
Who is running for office, and therefore who they may find themselves being represented by, in the future
What the process of voting and deciding on which candidates to vote for may look like
In addition to talking, there are other things that parents can do to expose their kids to the political process, such as:
Listening on television to news stories about candidates in various races (with the caveat that some news sources offer more balanced coverage of the races than other sources)
Watching a televised debate for a political office with kids
Taking children with you to the polls
Taking children to see legislative activity going on, whether it be at the local, state, or federal level
Some kids may end up largely agreeing with their parents’ political stances while others may end up largely disagreeing. And some may end up somewhere in between. That is to be expected, but what should not be expected is to not talk about politics with a kid one is raising, so that they end up being ill-informed on politics and the people running for various political offices when they are all grown up.
After all, the goal is for the children to grow up as kind, caring, and well-informed citizens of the areas, country, and world they reside in. Not doing all we can to ensure this would be an injustice to the kids and to the world.
Republicans in the United States Senate were able to successfully stall the “For the People Act”, a bill that Democrats argued was designed to help expand voting rights and fight off some of the attempts to curtail certain voting rights in some Republican states.
With this came a feeling of despair among many liberals, since a bill pushing for an expansion of voting rights, such as more voting registration options and vote-by-mail, failed. For many, it feels like all hope is lost for voting rights expansions.
Or is it?
I pose this question in light of the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the state of Georgia over its voting law, which “alleges that recent changes to Georgia’s election laws were enacted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right of Black Georgians to vote on account of their race or color, in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” according to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland. On the legal end, this may only be the first act with regards to addressing laws on voting that critics say make it more difficult for some people to vote.
I also pose this question in light of an executive order from President Biden I learned the other day—an executive order that broadly focuses on access to voting. Within that executive order is a lot of material with regards to expanding voter education and access within the laws already on the books. That expansion includes, but is not limited to:
Work towards expanding the ability of federal employees to take time off and still vote in elections.
Work towards giving federal employees more ability to serve as non-partisan poll workers.
The issuing of recommendations of how to expand voter access limitations that people with disabilities experience.
The issuing of recommendations for protecting the voting rights of Native Americans.
Voter education among those in federal custody, consistent with laws already on the books.
Now, let me be crystal clear here—all the executive order seems to be trying to do is push for an expansion of voter access and voting rights within the limitations of the laws already on the books, and all the Garland-led Justice Department seems to be doing is addressing what the Justice Department believes to be a violation of voting rights laws already in place. Neither Garland’s action nor Biden’s is an expansion of laws like one would have seen if the For the People Act passed both chambers of Congress and was signed by President Biden, nor should either action be treated as such.
At the same time, it’s not like nothing is happening on the voting rights front. There isn’t nearly as much happening as many (myself included) would like, but the push at the national level to expand voting rights is far from over.
And here’s the thing—that work towards voter expansion still has some chapters left in it. In line with that executive order I mentioned earlier in the blog post, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is requesting information from voters on barriers that keep people with disabilities from voting privately and independently. In other words, people have an opportunity to comment on what sorts of barriers exist when it comes to voting with dignity. In turn, NIST will use responses to inform a report expected to be released this December offering recommendations on how to address said barriers. So, in a way, we the people (particularly disability advocates and people with disabilities) may yet have an influence on recommendations offered by a federal agency on how to expand voter access for people with disabilities.
So, is it disappointing for many (myself included) that voting rights legislation was defeated? Absolutely. But in spite of that defeat, there is still work that has been done (through the executive order from President Biden and the lawsuit against Georgia brought forth by Garland’s Justice Department), as well as work still to do.
I did not publish a post yesterday evening for a reason: because I wanted to start off early Tuesday, Election Day, with a reminder for people to vote if they have not voted already.
Many of you who’ve read this will have already voted; if you are one of them, great! But if you are eligible to vote and you haven’t voted, then today is your day to vote. If you are voting today, please wear your mask and socially distance when going to the polls.
Speaking of mask wearing, I’ve noticed quite a bit of vitriol from anti-mask people. I don’t know if this is a post that will reach any such individuals, but let me be frank—before we knew about the science of mask wearing in New York (and elsewhere), the COVID situation here was a living nightmare. Hospital sirens were constant. My family went through a 10-week period where we lost, on average, three people we knew a week. A hospital in my county lost thirteen individuals…in 24 hours. This was the world without mask wearing. I beg people to wear their masks.
Under normal circumstances, I would be telling all of you, my readers, to vote when Election Day comes in the United States (sorry to readers who don’t live in the States).
But these are not normal circumstances. We are in the midst of a global pandemic, so given the crowds that accumulate at many polling places on Election Day, some may hesitate to go to the polls. That is understandable.
However, that is not an excuse to avoid voting. Many places have early voting—a period of voting before Election Day where you can go to a polling place at a time that works for you, during a time when crowds are hopefully light. Many places allow you to cast a mail-in or absentee ballot, which would allow you to get a ballot delivered to you and then you can send the ballot back via the mail. There are even a few states that only have vote-by-mail, but contrary to what President Trump may like you to believe, there is actually very little fraud that goes on with this method of voting—just ask Washington’s Republican Secretary of State.
If you’re not sure of what your options are for sending your ballot, contact your local Board of Elections office. It is the job of your local Board of Elections to give you the proper information on when and how to vote. Don’t be shy about using your Board of Elections in that manner. And, if you’re not sure how to reach out to your local Board of Elections, please let me know—I can try to find that information on your behalf.
But regardless of how you vote, make sure that you vote and vote safely. If you go to a polling place, either for early voting or on Election Day, please wear a mask and practice social distancing. If you are voting by mail, don’t waste your time with your mail-in ballot, as Election Day is two weeks from tomorrow. But please vote.
P.S. As I was getting ready to schedule this post for publication, I realized that this is my 200th post. So yay for this milestone post being about voting!