By Martha Walden
On top of a pandemic, climate change and economic upheaval, protests and riots are shaking cities across the nation as I write this. It seems as though everything is coming apart. There is hope, however, that everything is actually coming together. More and more people agree now that inequality is the root cause of many of our problems. If you’re a person of color, chances are you have known this for a long, long time.
Health outcomes for people stricken by the virus differ a lot, depending on the race and economic status of the victims. Inequality is also a leading cause of climate change. What else to call unsustainable profits for the few? Consider as well that the emissions of affluent countries tower over those of poor countries. Yet those who are the least responsible for the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stand to lose the most.
To counter inequality, we need real democracy. Voting is only one example of the ways we participate in a democracy, but it’s the most basic tool. What would the political map look like if everybody voted?
Black, Latinx, and young voters are much more likely than the general population to see climate change as a major priority. Unfortunately, these groups are less likely to vote than the general population. They may move more often, which can make registering more difficult. Or maybe they feel that their vote doesn’t count. Discrimination against them can also be the problem.
Republicans are trying to discourage minorities and young voters from voting and even kick them off the rolls. Certain state governments have been disenfranchising as many people as they can get away with. Ohio, Wisconsin, and Georgia, in particular, have engaged in large-scale purges of voters’ names from the election rolls.
An organization called Reclaim Our Vote targets this injustice. It identifies people who have been purged from the rolls and sends them postcards or telephones them to encourage them to re-register. It also seeks to turn out the vote through phone banking, text banking, and billboards in rural areas that provide information on how to get absentee ballots and directions to the polls. Eight thousand volunteers have so far sent over 1.3 million postcards. Right now the focus is on Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas.
The number of voters affected by purges and other unscrupulous tactics are more than enough to change election results in swing states. The stakes couldn’t be any higher this November. We need a strong surge of voters to overwhelm gerrymandered districts and the unequal power wielded by the Electoral College and all the other hurdles placed in front of voting. The defeat of Trump will be only one step back from the brink, but we have to accomplish that much before reforming voting laws and invigorating democracy.
To volunteer for Reclaim Our Vote, go to actionnetwork.org. Give democracy another chance.