Call your reps to demand mail-in voting in November
So many of us want to make a difference. We have things to say. Issues to stand up for. Wrongs to speak out about. And most of us do that on social media. While that’s a great personal outlet, it does little to sway the opinion of the elected officials who are making decisions. This month, we begin a monthly feature focused not on anger, but on influencing results. The Advocacy Challenge will focus on an issue or piece of legislation that is currently on the front burner in South Carolina or Washington. We’ll give you information and ask you to personally contact – either by mail or phone – the relevant elected officials and let us know how it went. Our advocacy expert – Sharon Klompus – says phone calls carry the most weight.
This month’s challenge – not surprisingly – is on preparedness for mail-in voting in November.
The issue: The governor has signed legislation to allow expansion of mail-in voting for the June primary and potential runoff by including a “State of Emergency” exemption. A decision must be made soon to extend that to the November general election, while also adding protection for in-person voting. These changes, while definitely needed in the time of COVID-19, should not be mistaken for making voting more accessible for all citizens. We still do not have true early voting in South Carolina, and there remain several barriers – even in the state of emergency exemption.
- The SC Election Commission has warned the governor and legislature that emergency changes must be made to our election process to ensure safe and secure elections. Strategies it mentioned include no-excuse absentee voting including allowing voters to submit ballot requests online, electronic submission of ballots, elimination of the witness requirement, expansion of early voting and voting locations, and mail-in voting. Because we can’t know what the pandemic situation will be in the fall, we also can’t wait until the situation is clear. We have to start now. The commission urged that decisions be made as soon as possible so election officials can be ready.
- Adding to the need for expanded and no-excuse absentee voting is the potential reduction in available polling places. The average age of poll workers in the state is 71, putting all of them in a high-risk classification. We should expect a significant reduction in the number of poll workers, thus enabling the counties to staff fewer polling places. The polling places themselves may be less willing to open their doors to a mass influx of voters, especially if the COVID situation is continuing or surging.
- Even if the state of emergency is lifted, until a vaccine is available many citizens who have underlying health conditions or older family members may still be avoiding crowded, public places and personal contact. This election is expected to be one of the most important in our history; voter turnout should be high.
The ask: We appreciate the legislature approving absentee voting exemptions and enhancements for the primary, but we feel it is critical that the legislature move quickly to extend and enhance those changes for the November general election. This is essential to ensure every citizen can vote and that no one has to choose between the health of themselves or a family member in order to do so.
The challenge: Contact both your state senator and representative (click here if you need to find out who they are and get contact information). Most likely you will speak to an aide. Make sure they take your name and address. Also get their name. Ask them if they are getting a lot of calls on the issue. They may or may not tell you. Tell us how you did. On Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, post a comment on your experience with the #AdvocacyChallenge-NovElection. We may highlight some on social media and use the experiences to encourage others to engage in a more personal and effective way with our elected officials.