Our nation is at a crossroads. The Constitution and our most basic civil and human rights are under attack, with absolutely dire consequences. But don’t just take my word for it. Donald Trump came right out and said it, directly confirming that he and his administration are actively working to limit voting rights. He not only is attacking access to safe, secure voting methods, he is undermining faith in the electoral system and the validity of our nation’s elections themselves — as part of an intentional, coordinated, nationwide campaign of voter suppression.
Between destroying the postal service, onerous voter ID laws, long lines at polling stations and voter roll purges that target people of color, refusing to fund federal aid to help states affected by COVID still carry out free, fair and safe elections in 2020 amid a global pandemic, and unfounded threats of voter fraud — it is clear that Trump is hell-bent on stopping people from voting. These attacks clearly target voters of color, especially Black women and people.
These tactics are not new; they are reminiscent of the Jim Crow pre-civil and voting rights era. Indeed, In Trump’s America, we are sicker, poorer and face increased racial hatred from white supremacists emboldened by his divisive campaign rhetoric.
The Trump campaign has promised to bring in a fleet of armed, off-duty police officers as poll watchers on election day in order to intimidate and dissuade non-Trump voters from casting their ballots. Voter suppression tactics in their various forms, from literacy tests to arduous voter ID laws to mass incarceration that disproportionately denies Black people the right to vote to intimidation at the polls, are familiar barriers to voting. But in 2020, we also must contend with the additional hurdles of the COVID-19 pandemic, a scenario that further raises literal life-and-death stakes on Election Day.
It is vitally important that Congress, judicial oversight bodies, watchdog groups and activists work with urgency and decisive action to ensure fair elections in every state and at every polling station. Every voter must be protected and have access to safe, secure voting methods such as early voting and mail-in ballots, especially during COVID. The harder it is to vote, the harder it will be on Black women in particular, as we face the additional socioeconomic barriers and systemic inequalities created at the intersection of white supremacy and unjust voter suppression actions. We will stand up to attempts to stop us and vote no matter what.
We know that Black communities have been hit harder by coronavirus and we shouldn’t have to risk death to cast our ballots. Yet that is exactly what millions will be asked to do if early voting and mail ballots are sabotaged by those who seek to strip us of the right to vote.
Black women have always been at the forefront of struggles for social justice, civil rights and standing up for our communities. We can and must utilize this collective organizing and voting power again in 2020. We must ensure our families and communities are registered, request their absentee ballots as soon as possible and send in our mail-in ballots early to ensure that U.S. Postal Service slowdowns do not interfere with our right to be counted.
Most importantly, we must hold elected officials accountable to do their jobs and ensure that we can vote safely and that every vote is counted. Just as we have been organizing for racial justice, we must demand that America protect and ensure our right to vote.
We will settle for nothing less than our full voting rights. We will get out the Black vote early and won’t rest until every vote is cast and counted.
Marcela Howell is president and CEO of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda. Follow her on Twitter at @BlackWomensRJ.