Fight voter suppression at home and abroad to defeat Donald Trump

Guest contributor Al Daigen volunteers with Democrats Abroad Canada and with the Democrats Abroad Voter Protection Committee, led by DAUK Women’s Caucus member Maya Buchanan.

Democrats at home and abroad can take heart that Joe Biden is polling so well and that Kamala Harris will prosecute such a devastating case against Trump on the campaign trail. But now’s no time for complacency. For Democrats to prevail in swing states and put Joe and Kamala in the White House, we must fight against ongoing Republican efforts to suppress our votes.

Fight voter suppression at home

The United States has a long, sordid history of suppressing poor and minority voters. There‘s a straight line from beatings and lynchings post-Reconstruction to poll taxes and literacy tests under Jim Crow to relentlessly targeted gerrymandering, voter-roll purges, and restrictive ID laws in many states today.

In the COVID-19 era, the Republican-led Senate has defeated Democratic efforts to fund safer-voting measures such as expanded vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting.  Why? Take it from Trump, speaking on Fox: “They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” 

Trump’s partisans are using social media to spread lies about mail-in voter fraud. They’re filing lawsuits to limit access to mail-in ballots. Trump and his hand-picked Postmaster General are doing whatever they can to cripple the U.S. Postal Service and stop Democrats from voting by mail. State Republican parties are closing polling places in minority neighbourhoods and recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers, including military vets and off-duty cops, to intimidate Democratic voters in key precincts in swing states on Election Day.

Many organizations in the U.S.A. are mobilizing to fight these tactics, register Democratic-leaning voters and protect their vote in the states where it is most threatened and matters the most. To join this fight online, contact any of the following: American Civil Liberties Union, Black Ballot Power, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Election Protection, League of Women Voters, Let America Vote, Prison Gerrymandering Project, Spread the Vote, Vote Forward.

Fight voter suppression abroad

But voter suppression happens abroad as well as at home. Although U.S. citizens are legally entitled to vote from abroad, in practice, that has never been easy. This year, Donald Trump and COVID-19 are making it harder in many ways, and most states have done nothing to make it any easier.

Obstacles to getting information, registering to vote, and requesting ballots: Voting procedures vary widely from state to state. But when voters abroad phone or e-mail their county election offices in their home states, they often come away misinformed by staff who don’t know the differences between absentee voting within the U.S. and absentee voting from abroad. When voters go to state election websites to get information, register to vote or request ballots, they find that some states block all traffic from outside the U.S. No wonder so many would-be U.S. voters abroad feel they’re getting the runaround!

Obstacles to returning ballots by postal mail: Just 32 states offer overseas voters options to return completed ballots by e-mail attachment, a dedicated web portal, or fax (though all three options are not available in all stages), and the remaining 18 states require postal mail (you may also be able to use courier services, which can be faster, but very costly). 

Voting from abroad by postal mail has always been slow and expensive and increased the risk that no matter how early you send in your ballot, it won’t arrive in time to be counted. But Trump and the pandemic have made things much worse:

  • all of Trump’s efforts to cripple the U.S. Postal Service will hurt voters abroad at least as badly as voters at home 
  • in many countries, lockdowns may keep you from even going to a post office to mail your ballot 
  • nearly 80 countries have suspended international postal delivery entirely
  • because of airline cutbacks, a lot of mail that used to travel by air now travels much more slowly, by ship.

So what can you do to fight back?

Follow the Democrats Abroad step-by-step plan for voting from abroad in 2020: The Democrats Abroad Voter Protection Committee provides a step-by-step plan to help you vote and make your vote count this year. This plan will take some commitment from you, but it will maximize your chances of receiving and returning your ballot on time and making sure it gets counted by your state election officials. 

Help other Democrats to vote from abroad in 2020: The Democrats Abroad Voter Protection Committee and the Democrats Abroad UK Women’s Caucus are fighting actively for our right to vote from abroad this year. Their main goal is to get as many states as possible to let us return our ballots by e-mail attachment or web portal. Here are two ways to join this fight.

  • If the state where you vote has a Democratic governor but does not let you return your ballot by e-mail attachment or web portal, then phone or e-mail your governor’s office and ask them to change that in time for the 2020 election. For sample scripts for telephone calls, answering machine messages and e-mails to your governor’s office, go to Take a Stand for E-mailed Ballot Returns.
  • If you receive a response from your governor’s office, please go to https://forms.gle/sSuzs59ezC5jnU5z5  and fill out the Letter of Concern Campaign response form to share it with the Democrats Abroad Voter Protection Committee. The information that you provide will help this committee in its own advocacy with these same governors.
  • You can also volunteer to help this committee in other ways.  E-mail the committee at voterprotection@DemocratsAbroad.org.

In the 2020 Presidential election, our democracy is at stake, and Democrats need every vote we can get. If you’re a Democrat living abroad:

  • please vote, following the Democrats Abroad step-by-step plan for voting from abroad in 2020
  • if you have friends or family who are also Democrats living abroad, please share this plan with them and encourage them to follow it too
  • if the state where you vote has a Democratic governor but does not let you return your ballot by e-mail attachment or web portal, phone or e-mail your governor’s office as described above to ask them to change that in time for the election
  • volunteer at voterprotection@DemocratsAbroad.org to help protect our right to vote from abroad. 

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