Community Connections

 


Vote As If Your Life Depended Upon It

Margo Wilson

I have been asked to write an article on voting. I am no voting scholar, more like a voting scofflaw, when I think about the elections I’ve skipped. I am not an activist who’s chained herself to a fence or thrown my body into a road in front of German shepherds with sharp teeth, firefighters with heavy-duty hoses, or police officers with batons and guns.

Many people have died for the right to vote. A web page of the Southern Poverty Law Center lists “Civil Rights Martyrs,” where you can read about such people as the Rev. George Lee, who was murdered on May 7, 1955, when he refused to end his voter registration efforts in Humphreys County, Miss., where he was one of the first African Americans registered to vote.
https://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/civil-rights-memorial/civil-rights-martyrs


Library of Congress – Dora Lewis after being released from prison after a hunger strike

On the “Night of Terror” on Nov. 14, 1917, Suffragist Dora Lewis had her head smashed into an iron prison bed in a cell at a Northern Virginia workhouse, and her cellmate, Alice Cosu, suffered a heart attack because she thought Lewis had died. Cosu didn’t receive medical treatment until the following day.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/11/10/night-of-terror-the-suffragists-who-were-beaten-and-tortured-for-seeking-the-vote/

About 25,000 American Revolutionary soldiers died from combat or disease because they, along with Massachusetts lawyer and activist James Otis, believed “taxation without representation is tyranny.”

Americans fought World Wars I and II to preserve Western democracies, including our own. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a democracy is “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”

From the dawn of civilization, millions of people from every cranny of the globe have died in their struggles to be free people with a voice over their lives. Voting matters.

With the coronavirus raging, it seems like this Nov. 3, we literally might be choosing between life and death when making our presidential choices. This makes voter suppression efforts and talks of armed protests after the election all that much more frightening and maddening.

The news is peppered with accounts of court rulings to suppress voting, of Russian attempts to influence the election, and of anticipated street violence if the current president is or is not returned to office. He also has proposed he simply may not leave office, regardless of what happens in the election.

Although 83 percent of registered voters in an August Pew Research poll said it “really matters” who wins the November presidential election, 49 percent said they expect to have difficulties voting.
https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/08/13/election-2020-voters-are-highly-engaged-but-nearly-half-expect-to-have-difficulties-voting/

Then, there are undecided voters like Ellesia Blaque, who teaches African literature at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, who questioned President Trump at an ABC Town Meeting Sept. 15 about whether he supports a nationwide medical plan to protect people like her with pre-existing medical conditions. She has sarcoidosis and neurosarcoidosis. She told a CNN anchorwoman a day after the town meeting, that she had been considering not voting because she has been a dedicated voter all her life “and what have I ever achieved or gained from it? Nothing.” She said it has not made a difference in her life whether a Democrat or Republican has been president.

But then, she said, a newly minted citizen from Turkey drove her home from the town hall and they were talking about his family in Istanbul and comparing situations. The man said he is so grateful to be in the United States and excited to be casting his first vote in a presidential election. It was then, Blaque said, that she felt, “How dare I, an American-born citizen, not cast one of my own?” She said she is going to vote.


Stacey Abrams from Fair Fight Website

Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, has been working with Fair Fight 2020 to build voter protection teams to protect the right to vote. On Sept. 15, she told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell that to inspire people to vote, one needs to be honest with voters.

“Voting is not a magic pill,” she said. “It’s not going to solve every challenge. We do not elect saviors. But it does give us progress. It does move us forward.”

So, some of our questions become, how do we protect our votes when seven percent of the first-class U.S. mail was delayed during a five-week period under investigation, (https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/09/16/dejoy-usps-delays-senate-report/); when we might face challenges at the polls, and when our votes might not even be counted if we do vote?

A brief stroll through the Internet reveals many organizations that want to help give us the information we might need to guarantee our right to vote and have our votes counted.
We might start with the web pages for the Supervisor of Elections of our counties:
Citrus County Supervisor of Elections: https://www.votecitrus.com/,
Marion County Supervisor of Elections: https://www.votemarion.gov/,
Hernando County Supervisor of Elections: https://www.hernandovotes.com/,
or Levy County Supervisor of Elections: https://www.votelevy.gov/.

We might check out the web pages of the Florida Division of Elections:
https://dos.myflorida.com/elections/.

In Florida, the last day to register to vote is Oct. 5. The last day to request a mail-in ballot is Oct. 24. A mail-in ballot must be returned and received by Election Day (Nov. 3). Supervisors of Elections will send the ballot to us during a seven-day window of Sept. 24-Oct. 1.

In Citrus County, early voting is at four locations from Oct. 19-31. In Marion County, early voting is at nine locations from Oct. 19-31. In Hernando County, early voting is at five sites from Oct. 19-31. In Levy County, early voting is Oct. 19-Nov. 1 at one site in Bronson. Check the Supervisor of Elections’ web pages or call the office for details.


By J.Winton – wikimedia.org

Voting on Election Day, Nov. 3, is at a precinct to which you’ve been assigned. Again, check the Supervisor of Elections’ web pages for your precinct location or call the office for details.

If you receive a ballot by mail but decide your vote would be safer if you show up in person, that is OK, according to representatives reached for this article in the Citrus and Marion Supervisor of Elections’ offices. You will be able to surrender your paper ballot and vote at the in-person location.

You also can check the status of your mail-in ballot on each of the Supervisor of Elections’ web pages. And you can check if you’re registered to vote.

In Citrus County, there is a mail-in ballot drop box at the Supervisor of Election’s office at 1500 N. Meadowcrest Blvd., Crystal River.

In Marion County, there will be secure ballot drop boxes at the early voting locations and at the Marion County Election Center, 981 NE 16th St., Ocala. Vote-by-mail ballots won’t be accepted at any voting site on Election Day, but you can surrender your ballot and vote in person.

Check the Hernando and Levy counties Supervisor of Elections’ websites for information about drop boxes there.

If you’re mailing your ballot, mail it at least seven days before the election, although earlier would be better.

Most newspapers and TV stations/networks have voting information on their websites. Even late-night host Stephen Colbert is getting into the act by hosting a humorous video each night about the voting rules and practices of each of the 50 states. Here is his voting “tutorial” for Wisconsinites: https://youtu.be/y9wt0WgsfX0.


By Anthony Berger – Wikimedia

Many people have commented on the rights, responsibilities, and foibles of voting, including Abraham Lincoln, who said, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

Voting is our right and responsibility. Some might argue that in a democracy, voting is our sacred duty, although others might caution we’re living in a democracy, not a theocracy.

This fall, we need to drop our ballots in the mail or in the secure drop box and then track our ballot’s progress on the Supervisor of Elections’ website. If voting by mail seems too risky, we can don our masks and submit to the hazards of voting in-person. Voting at one of the Early Voting sites might mean encountering fewer people.


United State Senate – the Office of Chris Murphy

If our plans fall through, if our mail-in ballot doesn’t appear to have been received by the Supervisor of Elections, or if voting on Election Day is a tradition we just don’t want to give up, then we need to put on our masks, consider ourselves warriors going into battle for our country, and get into and out of our polling places as expeditiously as we can.

We just can’t vote more than once. The penalty for voting twice or more in a federal election is a fine of not more than $10,000, prison time of not more than five years, or both.

So, onward, voters. Let’s do what we can to demonstrate we are a government of the people, by the people, and for the people – we are the majority of the people – and our voices will be heard and counted this time.