The coronavirus pandemic has influenced so much and changed our lives drastically. We will never be the same after this and so many of life’s moments have been modified because of COVID-19. However, one of the most influential events will prove to be the upcoming presidential election.
The United States got a taste of what polling during a global pandemic would be like during the party primaries in states like Wisconsin. Voters were forced to wait outside, in the rain, six feet apart, just to cast a ballot, just to have their voices heard. According to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, “The real outstanding question is whether or not we’re going to have an election system that can deliver for the voters and whether or not we’re going to be able to manage everybody being able to vote in November.”
Voting rights have recently been heavily politicized as most states (as of May 2020) cannot accurately distribute mail-in or absentee ballots to an extensive amount of residents and some believe that this form of voting favors one political party over another. However, as said by Patrick Ruffini, partner and co-founder of Echelon Insights, a Republican polling, and analytics firm, “There hasn’t been strong evidence that a wholesale shift to voting by mail does cause a state to move more Democratic or more Republican.” Also, this form of voting tends to be more popular with older citizens because they may not be able to get to the polling centers and currently they are the most “at-risk” age group for COVID-19.
The upcoming Georgia party primary elections are being conducted by mail, and registered voters have been sent absentee ballot applications by their counties, but we don’t know yet whether the general election in November will be conducted the same way. The current President of the United States recently threatened to withhold federal funds from Michigan and Nevada, two battleground states, if they go through with plans to encourage voting by mail in the general election. While his threats are probably not legal or enforceable, many are concerned that he or members of his party will take drastic steps to discourage or even limit the ability of certain people to cast their votes, especially if he thinks those voters may choose his opposition.
My grandfather recently shared with me a copy of a legal order from the 1960s in Mississippi. His mother (my late great grandmother) was a plaintiff in the suit against Forrest County, Mississippi to gain the right to register to vote. In the order, the courts forced the county to allow my grandmother and other African American citizens to vote without discrimination. He shared this with me to help me understand the importance of voting and our family’s legacy in struggling to make sure we can exercise our rights.
As a teenager, I am not able to vote yet, so it’s hard feeling somewhat helpless during elections. I try to stay informed and to help other people who can vote, but still I want the satisfaction of being able to submit my ballot, and have my voice heard. Alas, I’m only 15 years old and I have three more years until I’ll be able to vote. Till then, it is of the utmost importance that I volunteer for campaigns and voting rights organizations, and use the platforms that I have to spread awareness.
If you are an American citizen over the age of 18, register to vote. It’s important, you have the ability to shape and influence our country and it’s a right your ancestors fought, and in many cases, died for. To find information on how to register to vote or whether you are registered in Georgia please visit: registertovote.sos.ga.gov.
Whether you can vote by mail, or have to put on your mask and gloves and wait in a long line, please make sure that you make your voice heard and vote.