We are closing in on one of the most significant elections of our lifetime. At a time when over 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, mass uprisings against racist police violence have filled the streets, and catastrophic wildfires choked the western US for weeks, the upcoming election feels like the brink of yet another national crisis. Will everyone get to vote? Will all of the votes, including mail-in and provisional, be counted?
The Franklin County, Ohio Board of Elections recently sent out incorrect absentee ballots to 50,000 voters, or 21 percent of the county’s total mailed out ballots. Perhaps most disturbingly, President Trump called on white nationalist groups like the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” in response to any protests. This could lead to voter intimidation or interference in vote counts like those seen in Florida districts in the 2000 election.
We invite our southeast Ohio community members to join a growing movement of organizations concerned about threats to the integrity of the election. The Movement for Black Lives, Working Families Party, and Rising Majority are just a few of the many organizations oriented to visionary Black leadership and other leaders of color, working towards a future where every person is cared for and safe, beyond the election. Across the country, voters are committing to the following steps outlined in the election defense pledge from Showing Up for Racial Justice:
Defend against any pressure from local, state, or national officials, vigilantes or protestors to disrupt the count of eligible votes even if it seems likely which candidate will get the majority of the votes.
Monitor the counting of votes to make sure they are counted as quickly as possible (while maintaining safety standards) so that results are not delayed.
Encourage vote counters to be as cautious and conservative as possible when rejecting ballots for potential minor mistakes and do so in a fair and transparent manner.
Support and amplify clear communication about potentially confusing laws to voters or poll monitors.
Recruit or participate as a poll monitor if able.
Challenge any suggestion that the November 2020 election may be delayed or cancelled. Not only is this unconstitutional without congressional approval, it needlessly spreads fear and uncertainty.
Amplify concerns or communications from administrators when encountering any technical problems or when any mistakes of any kind are made.
Balance warning voters of the real risks to our democracy with optimism that everyone’s vote still matters and still counts. We must not scare people about casting a ballot or suggest that their vote won’t count.
Spread the word about which officials are responsible for counting the votes so there is a level of accountability.
Notify anyone who we know may be eligible for a provisional ballot to request one and point towards clear instructions on how to make it count and how to track its status.
Avoid calling law enforcement officers to polling places and drop boxes when possible (i.e., only call law enforcement as a last resort to handle problems).
Check out these organizations for more information: The Frontline (thefrontline.org) and Protect the Results (protecttheresults.com)
Along with the majority of Americans, we are deeply invested in protecting the democratic process. We support our boards of elections to do the important work they are sworn by oath to do in a timely and accurate fashion. Thank you, Debbie Quivey, Athens Board of Elections Director, for affirming this commitment in September. For everyone’s vote to count, election results may not come on Nov. 3 or 4. We need to keep paying attention in the days and weeks after to ensure the county, state, and national process is protected.
We will not allow a coup rooted in fascism and white supremacy to take hold. To safeguard our election and fight against authoritarianism, it’s not just on our institutions. It’s on us. And if the need arises to defend democracy, our voices will be too loud to ignore.
Editor’s note: Reany, Amoriya and Garlington are Athens County residents and representatives of Showing Up for Racial Justice Southeast Ohio.