Make your plan to vote, starting with your state’s vote by mail options. By: Molly McGrath
For the past hundred years, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has fiercely advocated for the rights of everyday citizens who deserve to live their lives without fear or discrimination—as guaranteed by the Constitution. All of us here at Seventh Generation are beyond proud to call them friends and partners. During this pivotal election year, we’ve joined forces with the ACLU to fight for the rights and safety of all voters and expand voting access during the pandemic. With climate change at a tipping point, and the health of future generations at stake, we have to use our voices and votes on behalf of younger generations who are too young to cast a ballot, but who inherit the choices we make. We know you can’t wait to rock your democratic right to vote this November, and Molly McGrath from the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project is here to help you get organized and election ready.
Election Day is just 14 days away, and we, at the ACLU, have been working for months nationwide to ensure voter’s safe and secure access to the ballot and to protect everyone’s rights while voting. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that we not only protect our health but also our civil liberties — including our fundamental right to vote. It’s on all of us to make a plan to vote. Today is not too early to act.
Check your voter registration status and voter identification requirements:
If you have recently moved, are a first time voter, or even if you’ve voted for decades, it’s essential that you register to vote or update or confirm your voter registration status. Even if you voted in past elections, unlawful voter roll purges may have removed your name from the list, so it’s best to confirm your status. States have different voter registration deadlines and requirements, so make sure you are registered well in advance of Election Day. Voter registration deadlines vary and some states allow individuals to register for the first time and cast ballots on Election Day.
Checking your state’s ID requirements is another crucial step. In 2017, at least 99 bills that restrict access to registration and voting were introduced in 31 states. Thirty-six states have some form of voter ID law currently in effect. These ID laws don’t affect all people equally: people of color, low-income people, the elderly, students, and people with disabilities disproportionately lack the types of IDs that states deem acceptable. Every American’s voting rights are put at risk when state legislatures enact ID laws that cherry pick the forms of IDs deemed acceptable based on whether a racial or ethnic group is more likely to have them. As a voting rights advocate and a lawyer, I’ve spent the last few years fighting back against restrictive ID laws. I’ve gone door to door and to community centers to reach voters where they are and to ensure they know about their state’s identification requirements. You can find out here if you need identification to vote in your state
Research your local races and ballot initiatives:
Ballots differ based on state and locality — with different candidates and questions, called ballot initiatives, which determine what kind of state you want to live in: a state that allows formerly incarcerated people to vote; a state that holds police accountable for brutality and killings; or a state that finally puts the nail in the coffin of racist Jim Crow-era laws. These questions were on the ballot for voters in Florida, Washington, and Louisiana, respectively, in the 2018 midterm elections, and Americans voted to move our state forward towards a country where We the People means all of us.
This year, Nebraska voters can decide to reduce predatory payday lending loan annual interest rates from 400% to a maximum of 36%. These payday lending loans, marketed as a short-term fix, are actually designed to trap borrowers in a cycle of long-term debt. Sixteen states and D.C. have already enacted rate caps of about 36 percent — and now Nebraskan voters have the chance to follow suit — the initiative from the Nebraskans for Responsible Lending turned in enough signatures to qualify for the November 3 ballot.
Coloradans can fight to protect reproductive freedom and vote no on Proposition 115, a back-door ban that would criminalize abortion at 22 weeks. Prop 115 is an initiative of the same groups and politicians who have attacked the right to make the medical decisions that are right for us and want to ban abortion outright. If passed, Prop 115 will disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, Latinx, LGBTQ+, low-income, and young individuals and families — the same marginalized communities who already face additional barriers and delays to accessing abortion care. Coloradans have rejected abortion bans on the ballot three times in the last 12 years; this year, a robust and growing list of organizations working on reproductive health, rights, and justice, as well as other issues, have already come out strongly in opposition to the ballot measure.
And in Oklahoma, voters can cast their ballot for State Question 805, a common-sense criminal justice reform that will limit extreme sentences for nonviolent crimes and save Oklahoma taxpayers $186 million. Oklahoma is handing down cruel and unfair sentences for minor crimes. A second conviction for breaking into a shed can result in a life sentence. In Oklahoma, an individual served 33 years in prison for writing $400 worth of bad checks, and a mother was sentenced to 15 years for stealing basic necessities and children’s toys from a Walmart. SQ 805 will limit sentences like these that are out of proportion to the crimes.
Cast an informed vote and research your candidates and ballot initiatives before casting your ballot.
Decide how you’ll cast your ballot:
If you haven’t voted yet, find out what voting via drop box or in person options you have for your state. If you were planning to vote by mail and have already received your absentee ballot, complete it and send it back as soon as possible since many states require that your ballot be received on or before Election Day.
Voting early is another great option. Many states allow voters to cast their ballot up to two weeks before Election Day, meaning more flexibility to work around your schedule and shorter lines. You can also vote on November 3rd! If you don’t have time before, haven’t returned your ballot, or just like the tradition, you can head to your local polling place on Election Day, just remember to take the proper precautions and to vote like your rights depend on it.
America is worth fighting for, vote like it.
For 100 years the ACLU has worked to realize the promises of the Constitution for all of us, and expand the reach of its guarantees. The ACLU believes we all have the right to live free from oppression - no matter who we are, where we were born, what language we speak, how or if we worship, who we love, or how much money we have. The ACLU is also working to equip every voter with the information they need to safely vote in this election and to understand how races all the way down the ballot implicate racial justice, criminal justice reform, and other core civil rights and civil liberties issues.