Defend Democracy – Protect Your Vote
(This article first appeared in the March-April 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Human Relations Director Sue Carney
Working together from now until Election Day is a must if we are going to advance and protect our voting rights. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy – and democracy is diminished every time we cannot get to the polls. It is weakened when we cannot afford or obtain documents required by the state to prove citizenship in order to be issued an acceptable form of identiﬁcation needed to vote.
Nearly 60 million of our country’s 232 million eligible voters, roughly 26 percent, were prohibited from casting a vote in the 2016 elections. We were disenfranchised by multi-prong strategies that stole our vote. They ranged from voter identiﬁcation restrictions, registration purges, American Disability Act violations and polling closures.
Make no mistake – this issue is not about party lines. This is about American civil rights. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, every American’s voting rights, including yours, are at risk when laws are enacted that cherry-pick suitable forms of identiﬁcation and target groups that are perceived to be the opposition.
As members of the labor movement, we have always been at the forefront of righting injustices within our ranks and communities. Protecting voting rights should not be restricted to legislative chambers or the courts. We need an army of volunteers to push back against restrictive laws that infringe upon our rights.
Join us. We need your help to reach potential voters well ahead of Election Day to offer support and resources that will ensure each of us, regardless of our political afﬁliation, are able to exercise our right to vote.
Reaching disenfranchised voters can often be challenging. Their personal circumstances can make traditional outreach less effective, but we can connect with many of these would-be voters where they are. Make plans to visit retirement communities and senior centers, college campuses, churches, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, veterans’ homes and transitional housing establishments. Let’s also not forget to check in with our co-workers, family members and friends to ensure their voices are also counted. Many might be surprised to learn they are no longer registered or fail to possess the identiﬁcation needed to cast their vote.
APWU volunteers should be prepared to meet the differing needs of marginalized voters. We should be able to assist them with voter registration, obtaining acceptable identiﬁcation and arranging transportation to the polls. We should be equipped to provide useful information and support that ensures everyone has the ability to vote come Election Day.
To get started with this important mission, visit www.rockthevote.org to find out how your state rates on its voting policies. Visitors can register to vote, learn more about identiﬁcation requirements in their state, access important dates and deadlines, ﬁnd polling locations and transportation assistance. They can discover whether absentee, early voting and vote-by-mail options are available. The site answers if a state permits automatic or same-day registration, provides pre-registration details for individuals who will turn 18 by election time, and includes information for voting students, military members, people with disabilities and returning citizens. Returning citizens account for millions of Americans who are excluded from our democratic process on the basis of criminal disenfranchisement laws. Thirty-four states currently bar community members from voting based on their past mistakes.
The time to act is now. We encourage each of you to defend democracy and protect the vote through APWU local, state and retiree chapter initiatives. Partner with Rock the Vote, the League of Women Voters and other voting rights coalitions, or participate in the ACLU Voting Rights Project.
Whatever you do, do not sit on the sidelines. Choose to defend democracy. Choose to protect the vote. With your assistance, many will get their right to vote back.