The first presidential election I remember was Bush vs Dukakis in 1988. School was closed on election day and I was hanging out at a friend’s house. Over lunch, I asked her mother if she had voted and she replied, “Well, everyone knows Bush is going to win, so I didn’t bother.”
That night I told my parents what she had said and my mom replied, “If everyone who thought that didn’t vote – he might not have won. You’ve got to act to make things happen.”
That story has stuck with me. Every election day I picture my neighbor (in a classic 80’s outfit) and am inspired to wait in line. In college, when I received my first presidential ballot, I was giddy. I was going to vote! For president! I bounced from the student center to my dorm room, pulled up the Washington Post voter’s guide, and diligently filled out all the races, even the ones I had no idea you could vote for. I was voting – this was a thing my relatives had fought for in every war since the American Revolution.
Sure, I grew up in the DC area. So maybe civic duty and politics were a more of a topic of conversation in my household. But voting is one of the things that unites us all as Americans.
I never really thought about voting access until I moved to Georgia. When I went to vote they asked to see my ID. I had a driver’s license, but still, I was angry. What if I didn’t have a driver’s license? Is this ID thing even legal? I went home and researched IDs at polling places and learned, yes, it is legal. This was my first exposure to hoops people might have to jump through to exercise their fundamental right. We may think a minor thing like showing an ID isn’t that hard, but what if you don’t have an ID? What if it’s hard for you to drive to the polls? Or to print out the form needed to request a mail-in ballot? Or prove your address because you are housing unstable?
This year, voting, like everything else in 2020, is going to be a little more complicated than usual. The hot-mess that was the GA primary taught us a few things. One, voting is be harder. Vote early (but not often) if you can. But two, people still stood in long lines to exercise their right to vote. Volunteers brought them water and snacks. We are all in this together and we are all determined to hold our leaders accountable.
This month, Science for Georgia and our partners are compiling a list of resources and tips to make sure you:
1. Are registered to vote
2. Can request a mail in ballot
3. Know how to fill out the request form and where to send it
4. Can find your polling place
Regardless of who you vote for and why you chose to vote – remember – voting is one thing that everyone can do. Please vote. Please think of your neighbors that may need help voting. While you cannot drop their ballot off for them (that’s illegal) – you can drive them to a polling place, mailbox, or ballot dropbox.