With most Americans in their homes practicing social distancing due to COVID-19, there have been major changes to our society and the economy. But the COVID-19 virus has also impacted our democracy. In-person voting during social distancing is unwise and could have a major impact on Americans’ health.
As an Andrew Goodman Ambassador and student at Georgia State University, I have seen firsthand how this crisis has affected the student vote. In spite of it all, our elections must go on.
Here are some great tips to make sure our democracy is secured for all voters, during this pandemic and beyond:
1. Request An Absentee Ballot
Almost every state and territory allows mail-in voting. The U.S. Government Services and Information website provides absentee ballot information for every state. You can also check the websites of your Secretary of State or local Board of Elections for specific instructions and requirements for your area.
2. Be Informed About The Candidates
Many states, including my home state of Georgia, have pushed back their presidential primaries to protect the safety of their citizens. While the primaries are important, we cannot forget that in many states there are other elections happening at the same time, and those elections are just as important to your daily life. This is why it is important to vote in all elections. You can find information on who’s running using websites like Vote411 or Ballotpedia. Use these resources to learn about local candidates so you can make the best choices for your community when you vote.
3. Fill Out The 2020 Census
Every 10 years the United States holds a confidential, Constitutionally-mandated count of every single person in the country. The census helps the government determine how much federal aid the states get. The census is also how the House of Representatives is reapportioned as the population shifts. This is the first year where the census will be online. You can take the census here.
4. Stay Involved On Social Media
Secretaries of States and governors are responsible for handling elections. It would be wise to follow both the Secretary of State and the governor of your state to get real-time updates on the status of the elections in your state.
5. Stay Involved On Social Media Pt. 2
6. Inform Your Friends
Many people do not know how to get started when it comes to voting. Reading this article now makes you a resource. You should post about upcoming elections on your social media platforms and share what election organizations are saying.
7. Be Safe
As this article is being written, the COVID-19 disease has killed over 30,000 Americans. Democracy is nothing without people. Every life matters and should be preserved. It is up to us to practice social distancing and safe hygiene to stop the spread of disease.
8. Don’t Stop After The Pandemic
Preserving democracy cannot stop after the pandemic has passed. Every day there is a new challenge to a fair and open democracy. These challenges are only amplified during the pandemic. This situation has shown us the weaknesses in our democracy, and it is up to us to work to make it as strong, free and open as possible.
For example, the cornerstone of an election is the thousands of workers that count and create ballots. One way to help after the crisis is to become a poll worker. Poll workers in many states are paid and an increase in poll workers could help lower lines and help efficiently count votes.
Another way to continue the fight is to know your representatives. It is imperative that as a United States citizen you make your voice heard both during and after the election. Some things you can fight for are:
– Hand-marked Paper Ballots
– Modernizing the Voting Machines
– Increasing Support for Mail-in Ballots.
These things are investments in future elections so you can play a part in giving access to the next person.
In addition to these eight tips, we can all continue to advocate for every state in our nation to have online voter registration, vote by mail and safe, accessible, well-resourced polling locations. These are important now, during the pandemic, but are also important for the preparedness and security of our democracy in the future.