It’s time to push back against vigorous voter suppression, and push forward to get out the vote for the November 2020 presidential and congressional elections.
National, statewide and local unions have been calling for protection of voters’ rights, and members will be involved in phone banking, social media and widespread campaigns to get people out voting in this critical election.
It is clear how much a vote matters by the effort and money spent to suppress it. Cuts to funding for the U.S Postal Service limiting hours and delivery could jeopardize the arrival of mail-in and absentee ballots. Limits to early voting, massive closures of polling places — particularly in Black and brown neighborhoods — stricter ID laws, and shorter hours at polling places are all attempts to hinder voting. ID requirements, which differ by state, thwart low-income voters.
Purging voter rolls and gerrymandering districts are other harmful practices. Florida even enacted a “poll tax” on some citizens seeking to restore their voting rights — those convicted of a felony who have since completed their sentences.
The current pandemic presents other challenges to voting. A recent article in the New York Times noted six states require an excuse for absentee voting, and that excuse cannot be the pandemic. But in nine states and the District of Columbia, every registered voter will be mailed a ballot ahead of the election: California, D.C. and Vermont will do this for the first time this fall. Thirtyseven states are allowing absentee voting for all.
In late August, New York enacted legislation to allow voters to immediately apply for absentee ballots and to expand who can get them.
NYSUT endorses candidates for election Nov. 3
This summer NYSUT issued endorsements
in general election races for state
Legislature and recommended congressional
candidates for endorsements by the union’s
national affiliates, the American Federation of
Teachers and National Education Association.
Endorsed candidates receive grassroots support
from NYSUT members, including phone banking,
door knocking and literature distribution. The union
also makes financial contributions from voluntary
donations through VOTE-COPE, the union’s nonpartisan
political action committee.
Absentee ballots postmarked by Election Day or received at the Board of Elections by the day after will be counted. Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. The election results affect education funding, citizens’ rights, environmental conditions, legal decisions, global affairs, state funding and much more.
“For some time now American citizens, including millions of New Yorkers, have been failing to participate in one of our most important franchises — voting,” said Andy Pallotta, NYSUT President. “What’s at stake? Your rights, your future, your community, your voice.”
In 2008, the United States had its most diverse electorate in its history.
But from 2011 to 2012, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, 27 measures passed in 19 different states making it more difficult to vote.
Voting in the U.S. has been mired in controversy since the birth of the nation, when only landholding white men could vote. This summer marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which women endured beatings, imprisonment, hunger strikes and pickets to achieve. But it wasn’t until after years of civil rights protest yielded the 1965 Voting Rights Act that Black and brown women were granted the right to vote.
This important act also sought voting protections for Black and brown men — who technically had the right to vote but were intimidated, threatened and often turned away from voting after being forced to take “literacy tests” or pay fees.
The Voting Rights Act sought to change all that. It was a force that opened doors and voting booths.
With a change in leadership in the U.S., and the appointment of more conservative judges, the U.S.
Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case. The decision meant that jurisdictions no longer had to get federal preclearance for changes in voting procedures. Voter suppression began in earnest again; some limiting voting acts were passed the very same day.
NYSUT’s national affiliates are urging members to stay vigilant in the fight to secure every citizens right to vote. The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution calling for federal and state governments to ensure that the 2020 elections are free and fair. This includes the right to cast ballots by mail, if a person so chooses; “hard copy” paper ballots that can be scanned electronically; disconnecting all voting machines from the internet; auditing of paper ballots; and the provision of extensive in-person early voting, including weekends. Visit aft.org for the full resolution.
The National Education Association encourage members to become involved as Early Vote Educators; to learn to reach out and organize in the community via digital platforms; and to volunteer to work at the polls. Visit educationvotes.nea.org/presidential-2020/vote-by-mail/ for more info.
Voting rules in New York State
If you’ve voted in New York before, registered in person, or provided ID at the time of registration, you don’t need to show ID to vote.
If you’re voting in New York for the first time, registered to vote by mail, and didn’t provide ID when you registered, be sure to bring a copy of your photo ID, or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or government document that shows your name and address when you vote.
For absentee ballots:
If you’ve voted in New York before, registered in person, or provided ID at the time of registration, you don’t need to provide ID to vote by mail.
If you’re voting in New York for the first time, registered to vote by mail, and didn’t provide ID when you registered, be sure to enclose a copy of your photo ID, or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or government document that shows your name and address when you return your ballot.