Do You Have What It Takes to Vote?
(This article appears in the September/October 2014 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
There has been a lot of information on TV, in newspapers, and online about changes in voting procedures for the upcoming midterm elections on Nov. 4. Voter identification laws have made it more difficult for seniors to exercise their right to participate in the election process in many states.
Seniors who don’t drive may not have the necessary ID and, depending on the state, there may even be a fee to obtain proper ID.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states have passed laws requiring voters to show some form of identification at the polls. Don’t be fooled if you hear that courts have struck down most of these requirements; it’s not true. As of May 8, 2014, 31 of 34 states are enforcing voter ID laws. Some laws will not be implemented until 2015 or 2016.
How does this affect you?
You should know the answer to the questions below before Nov. 4:
- What are the voter ID requirements in your state?
- What is the location of your polling place?
- Was your state redistricted? Did it affect your district?
- Do you need to update your name and/or address? If your information has changed, update your registration immediately.
- What are the dates, times, and locations of early voting?
- How can you get an absentee ballot?
- Will your state automatically send you an absentee ballot based on a request from a previous election?
- Is your polling place accessible to voters with disabilities?
The answers are crucial to your participation in this election. You can find voter information for your state at www.vote411.org or by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE. (Select option 3). Being prepared will help you overcome obstacles to voting.
In November all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 33 members of the Senate and 36 state governors will stand for election.
Retirees should pay particular attention to how incumbent members of Congress voted on issues that are important to seniors. The APWU is affiliated with the Alliance for Retired Americans (ARA) and, as your Retirees Department Director, I am a member of their National Executive Board. ARA has published a congressional voting record to help you make informed decisions. You can find it at www.tinyurl.com/aravoting.
We continue to remind Congress and elected state officials that their job is to serve the American people. Spread the word: Don’t support candidates who have voted to cut seniors’ benefits. Seniors deserve elected officials who want to improve our quality of life and make services more affordable and accessible.
Social Security: We Won the Battle But the Fight Continues
Thanks to your letters and phone calls and the efforts of retiree organizations you support, the Social Security Administration has reversed its decision to stop providing benefit verification letters. A benefit verification letter shows if you are receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Medicare. A benefit letter is often requested when you apply for loans, mortgages, assisted housing, health insurance, disability and in other situations where you need to prove your income.
The APWU Retirees Department opposes the closing of Social Security offices. We also object to the Social Security Administration’s decision to stop mailing paper benefit statements annually. The statements give you an estimate of the benefits you will receive based on when you retire, as well as if you go on disability or receive survivor benefits. The Social Security Administration had announced that it would stop mailing statements in 2011, but after receiving many complaints, decided to mail statements once every five years. We want everyone to continue to receive a paper benefit statement every year.