Politically Speaking

Voter Education: Early Voting, Voter Suppression And How To Make Sure Your Vote Counts

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In November, when second wave of this pandemic could be peaking and even worst than the first, there’s a good chance that you might not want to go to a voting booth in person. But as the 75th Postmaster General of the United States, the chief executive officer of the United States Postal Service and a major Trump donor, Louis DeJoy has worsened mail service, what can be done to make sure that voting by mail works?

Louis DeJoy, who gave $1.2 million to the Trump Victory Fund and was named postmaster general in May, quickly started cutting costs at the Postal Service, eliminating overtime pay, limiting the use of mail sorting machines, and telling postal workers to leave mail behind to avoid making extra trips, leading to delays in mail delivery. The Postal Service started removing mail-sorting machines and took out more mailboxes. Under pressure, including the threat of multiple lawsuits from states, DeJoy said that he would stop rolling out new changes, though it’s not clear yet how he’ll fix the issues that he’s already caused—or what mechanism Democrats in Congress can use to hold him to his promise.

Some feel DeJoy’s actions before his statement doubling back on rolling out the new changes is just symbolism without substance because the damage is done and there is no sign he plans to reverse his actions. So with this once in a lifetime pandemic, voter suppression and outside interference, what actions can you the voter take to make sure your vote counts.

On Thursday, August 6th, we celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, the civil rights law that John Lewis was willing to die for as he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In signing the act in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson pledged: “We will not delay, or we will not hesitate, or we will not turn aside until Americans of every race and color and origin in this country have the same right as all others to share in the process of democracy.”

Miller Center: August 6, 1965: Remarks on the Signing of the Voting Rights Act

As we mourn Congressman John Lewis, “the conscience of the nation,” it’s time to pass the new voting rights law that bears his name, but until then what do we do now in one of the most important, if not the most important election of our lives. As we have seen over the past few years especially during the election for Georgia Governor in the 2018 Midterm Election that introduced the world to Stacey Abrams.

Black Westchester wanted to help educate Westchester County voters on how to vote safely and securely, with the help of the Concerned Voters of Westchester (CVOW), who provided us much of this information. This is teh beginning of a series or articles dealing with our right to vote and the general election. Please share this article with your family, friends and co-workers, and ask them to help spread the word. 

Local activists are doing their part to educate voters too! This Black Westchester article was written to educate voters.

So before we get started there are a lot of misinformation going around, so lets break a few things down for you. First let’s start with Voter Suppression. Exactly what is Voter Suppression?

Voter suppression

Voter suppression is a strategy used to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. It is distinguished from political campaigning in that campaigning attempts to change likely voting behavior by changing the opinions of potential voters through persuasion and organization, activating otherwise inactive voters, or registering new supporters. Voter suppression, instead, attempts to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition.

The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, to physically intimidating and even physically attacking prospective voters, which is illegal. Voter suppression can be effective if a significant number of voters are intimidated or disenfranchised. In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that voting laws had resulted in voter suppression and discrimination.

What Are Mail In Ballots or Absentee Ballots

Leading up to the primary Black Westchester wrote a guide to absentee ballots. With all the noise on TV and threats from Trump that these mail in ballots will lead to fraud, we share the video below from ABC News titles Mail-In Ballot Explained to explain it and the process a little easier for all.

Early Voting

A postcard from the Concerned Voters of Westchester will start going out within the next week on behalf of several local Democratic candidates. If your organization is interested in using these postcards to educate voters, please email us at concernedvotersofwestchester@gmail.com.

Westchester Needs Election Inspectors!

The county BoE sent out the postcard below to registered voters.  Black Westchester encourages our readers to become poll inspectors and direct them to this information and this form to apply.  The procedural training will be fully online and the hands-on voting equipment training will be conducted in-person in a socially distanced manner.

What’s New?

BoL Election Working Group (EWG) Report

The advocacy of the CVOW is working! The BoL’s Election Working Group released their report via the BoL’s newsroom page.  The report is 21 pages and includes many recommendations submitted to the BoL from election advocates. Also included are BoL press releases, letters to the BoE from George Latimer and almost 300 pages of public written comments. Feel free to share this report. 

NYS Legislature Hearing “Elections in a Pandemic: A Look at the 2020 Primary”

The CVOW heard from a variety of election officials and advocates at Tuesday’s hearing so in case you missed it, you can view it here. Beware! The hearing was 6 1/2 hours long. Below are a couple of key highlights.

  • Westchester’s Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner, Reggie Lafayette, was invited and scheduled to speak alongside Onondaga Democratic Board of Elections Commissioner, Dustin M. Czarny. Commissioner Lafayette was a no show. [Black Westchester will be reaching out to Commissioner Lafayette for any recommendation he can offer, if he gets back to us we will share that in the next article in this series]
  • Voters that applied for an absentee ballot for BOTH the 2020 primary and general election must apply again to receive an absentee ballot for November!

Testimony can still be submitted by this Friday, 8/21! In our next update, we will share the testimony CVOW will submit as a supplement to the Westchester public written comments we submitted before the hearing. 

What’s Next?

The BoE is legally required to issue a communications plan as well as polling locations by August 31st.  Should that deadline be met, we will help amplify the information and if the deadline is missed, we will publicly point out this election law violation to voters, elected officials and election authorities.  Regardless of the outcome, we will share our response with you and ask that you also amplify it.

Let’s not let Trump’s win at any cost rhetoric about mail in ballots and mail fraud deter or intimidate you from getting out to vote. The bottom-line is everyone must get up, get out and vote and vote like your life depends on it because it does, Recapping vote early, if you are planning to vote by mail, request you absentee ballot as soon as it is available and then fil it out that day and mail it back. That way no matter how they slow down the mail, your ballot will make it in before the deadline. And for those who are down to pack some purell and get masked up, vote in person, bring some bottle water and a snack or two, be prepared for long lines and delays and vote vote vote. But whatever you do and however you do it – Early is the word of the day!!!

Once again for those concern about the USPS being able to handle the unusual amount of mail in ballots due to this pandemic, Have no fear and do not let Trump mislead you the USPS delivers over a billion Christmas Card every year. So as long as you do your part by requesting and returning you mail in ballot as early as possible, the USPS will be able to handle any surge even with the interference from the White House and it cronies. Just please do not wait until the last minute to make sure your vote is counted.

Please share this with every one and stay tuned to Black Westchester for more in this series of voting education.

AJ Woodson

AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company, Host & Producer of the People Before Politics Radio Show. AJ is a Father, Brother, An Author, Journalism Fellow (Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism), Hip-Hop Artist - one third of the legendary underground rap group JVC FORCE known for the single Strong Island, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian, Documentarian, Activist, Criminal Justice Advocate and Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Daily Challenge Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine, Word Up! Magazine, On The Go Magazine and several others.

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