Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity’s.
If you have been watching the headlines since January 2021, you are well aware that our democracy is under threat, and states across the country are passing laws and policies making it harder for all Americans to cast a ballot using the “big lie” as a false justification that the election was stolen from Trump. In fact, 14 states have already enacted 22 laws that make it harder for Americans to vote — from creating obstacles to vote-by-mail, imposing voter ID laws, reducing early voting days and hours, and banning snacks and water for people waiting in line to vote. The impact of these laws will lead to voter confusion about how to cast a ballot, long lines at the polls and voter disenfranchisement. Those who stand to be harmed the most are voters of color and young voters — all who have historically been targeted to silence their voices.
The best way to prevent voter disenfranchisement is voter education. With the current voter restrictions sweeping our nation, voters need detailed information on how they can control their vote by registering to vote and requesting a mail ballot so they aren’t shut out of the political process in 2022.
2020 was a transformative election in many ways. Not only was it unique due to the COVID-19 pandemic, racial reckoning in our country and a concerted effort by the former President to undermine our democracy, but it was groundbreaking because the pandemic created a new opportunity for almost all voters to cast their ballot well in advance of Election Day by voting at home instead of going to the polls — a method that many voters never used before.
Out of the 160 million Americans who voted in 2020, over 43% of voters cast their ballot by mail, compared to 21% in 2016. Voters of color, who traditionally vote in-person through early voting or on Election Day, also embraced vote by mail. For example, the Brennan Center for Justice found that, in Georgia, a higher percentage of Black voters cast their ballot by mail at 30% compared to 24% of white voters. Vote-by-mail has many advantages, including reducing lines at polling places and increasing voter turnout. However, the most significant benefit of all is the ability for voters to assert control over their ballot, which increases participation in all elections and down-ballot races, from local school boards to the U.S Senate.
National and state-based organizations are doing the urgent work now — suing in courts and advocating for comprehensive voting legislation at the federal level in advance of the 2022 election. But while these critical efforts are taking place, there are real tools we need to use now to protect the sacred right to vote well before the 2022 election. This requires year-round organizing and voter education through direct one-on-one conversations with voters to ensure they have the tools to register to vote, check their voter registration and are aware of all of their options, including signing up for a mail ballot. In addition, we can work to reverse some of the chaos and confusion that states are deploying by empowering voters with the information they need to take control of their vote.
That’s why I became Executive Director of Deliver My Vote, last month. I have spent the last decade promoting and protecting the right to vote. My journey began as an attorney assisting grassroots organizations that were advocating for expansive voting laws in Black and brown communities. I was part of a team that sued the state of Wisconsin over their discriminatory voter ID law, and most recently I advocated for national standards for elections and the restoration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But, throughout my career, manning voter hotlines and having direct conversations with voters is the most transformative work that I have done to ensure that people can turn out and have their voice heard at the ballot box.
At Deliver My Vote, our mission is simple — we run direct voter contact programs and develop relationships with voters by providing them with information all year round to help them take control of their ballot and vote at home. We are one of the few national organizations with this sole mission and are committed to advancing the representation of Black, brown and young voters.
In 2020, we worked in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida, made over 6.4 million live calls, sent over 4 million text messages, had in-depth conversations with over 163,000 target voters and made detailed vote plans with over 41,000 voters. We are currently building on the progress made in 2020 and will execute four-year programs in Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to increase voter turnout in underserved communities.
Too much is at stake in 2022 — 34 U.S. Senate seats, all 435 U.S. House seats, 36 Governor’s seats, 29 Attorney General’s, and countless state legislative and municipal elected offices are at play. Unfortunately, even though progress was made shattering voter turnout records in 2020, over 80 million eligible citizens did not vote.
Historically, voter turnout in midterm elections is much lower than presidential elections, and Get Out the Vote drives typically don’t ramp up until a few months before an election. We cannot become complacent and let that happen in 2022. Now is the time to start speaking with voters to ensure they have the necessary tools to register to vote and take control of their ballot well before November 8, 2022.