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"The only thing we can expect is the unexpected."--Vincent Warren
For our votes to count this fall, the barriers are many and the fights back spot-on and encouraging.
Secretaries of state from three crucial states, Colorado, Michigan, and Connecticut, were ably moderated by Vincent Warren of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The virtual, interactive panel was held Thursday, August 13 on the first full day of this years Netroots Nation conference.
Where voting by mail (VBM) or absentee is criminalized, the USPS is weaponized, and the threat of election cancellation looms, said Warren, the stakes couldn't be higher for the future of democracy, especially among marginalized groups: African Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans, youth, ex-felons, voters with disabilities, and senior citizens.
"The only thing we can expect is the unexpected," he said.
Colorado SoS Jena Griswold, the youngest SoS in the country, raved about her state's superior systems in place: for Colorado's recent primaries, there were online registration, same-day registration (SDR), and the highest rates ever of registration and voter turnout.
We must extend the VBM option to all voters to avoid Covid19 deaths, she said. Trump opposes all forms of avoiding in-person voting, as if preferring the endangerment of lives to, well, being voted out [my small addition: ed.].
Michigan's SoS Jocelyn Benson said that in her state voters opted for VBM in Election 2018. There are Republican SoSs who favor it also; it's not a partisan thing. It was later added that more Republicans than Democrats voted by mail in 2016 and 2018. (Michigan is one of the few states with an independent redistricting commission, a function handled mostly by state legislatures and hence very politicized).
Benson has been personally and publicly attacked by President Trump. Benson nonetheless credited the federal government for the funding provided by the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed in March 2020).
Record numbers voted by mail, she said. Lots of drop boxes, one of Trump's betes noires, have been installed. The best practices adopted by other states have been most helpful, said Benson, in formulating Michigan's. She anticipates manifold problems in the upcoming election but is prepared for record turnouts as well as contradictions to results by the GOP.
Connecticut's SoS Merrill said that her state is tied with Alabama for last place in the nation in terms of its lack of the early voting option as well as permission required for "absentee voting," except for senior citizens [the term is becoming obsolete as VBM is adopted by more and more states]. For years, she said, the GOP has opposed advancing beyond these hurdles to democracy. Her blue state does provide SDR, however.
In the state's primary held two days ago, VBM was "wildly popular," said Benson. Three hundred thousand out of 1.2 million voters requested them. The fierce tropical storm that devastated Connecticut last week provided a major hurdle to the count; time for voting was extended and minorities thronged to drop boxes. These were added in every town (Connecticut has no counties) only after formidable opposition was allayed.
The state's largest challenge is pushback by the GOP, she said.
With drop boxes so key to the success of elections, especially given the multiple issues surrounding the USPS--and all three options (VBM, drop boxes, or voting in person) should be accessible to all, panelists stressed again and again--what can we do up against a federal administration so opposed to them? Warren asked.
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