As a pillar of our democratic process, threats to voting access are threats to democracy itself. It’s a very troubling era for our country, an existential grappling with whom we’ve been as a people and whom we want to become.
Without full voting access for all Americans, it’s doubtful that our country will ever elect a critical mass of leaders at all levels of government, who are committed to enacting laws and policies that ensure equality for everyone, break the stronghold of industrial complexes, and enforce significant measures that harness the accelerating climate change responsible for severe weather events such as this summer’s deadly heat wave in the PNW.
As a white male of privilege, I’ve never had trouble registering to vote and casting my ballot. However, members of BIPOC communities continue to be disproportionately removed from voter registration rolls or prevented from registering to vote and voting. They also face significant bureaucratic and economic hurdles to register, stay registered, and cast their vote.
The problems themselves are old (check out this powerful podcast episode for a deeper dive), but the treacherous means continues to reinvent themselves with increased sophistication and technological finesse amid dangerous groupthink.
Here’s some solutions for which I’m fighting an uphill battle, along with millions of other activists who care deeply about democracy. They might never be fully realized before or after I die, but I’m willing to go down swinging:
- Federal funding to ensure full and safe voter participation.
- Full restoration of the Voting Rights Act.
- Expanding voter access.
- Ensuring votes of all people count.
- Ending voter intimidation and suppression policies, such as Voter ID laws.
- Boosting civic engagement before and after elections.
- Eliminating foreign interference in U.S. elections.
- Ensuring full and fair representation in the U. S. Census.
More specifically, I embrace and recommend these five action steps to drive the aforementioned solutions.
- Research and Learning (Including Data Gathering): Make an ongoing effort to educate yourself on the facts, history, complexities, and nuances of issues that you care about. Keep links, notes, and data handy so that you can be informed when you interact with others or on social media.
- Equitable Relationships with Members of Underrepresented Groups: There’s no substitute for getting to know and spending time with people who are different from you, especially those with less privilege than you enjoy. It’s crucial that these relationships are built on equal footing, without the person with more privilege positioning themselves as the “helper” or, worse, “savior.” The person with more privilege should also do most of the listening and a lot less of the talking.
- Speaking Against Injustices: When you hear or see injustice taking place, whether it’s right in front of you, explained to you by others, or observed through media, take a stand and speak out against it in a compassionate, skillful manner. These engagements can often be awkward, uncomfortable, or downright scary. Sometimes speaking out costs you a relationship or changes how people perceive you.
- Communication With Elected Officials and Signing Petitions: Regularly comment on posts from elected officials or others in positions of power, and create and share posts that address the actions of these individuals. Sign well-organized petitions that can influence policy changes by such elected or appointed individuals. And do so, again, with compassion, skill, and non-violence.
- Contributions of Time, Money, and Resources: Being an effective activist who helps to influence meaningful, sustainable change will cost you something. Contribute as much as you’re able to, depending on your individual circumstances and interests. This includes supporting non-profits that are doing effective work on issues that matter to you.
Regarding non-profits, here’s four organizations doing great work to drive policy changes to increase voting rights and access for BIPOC communities (and, by extension, all Americans).
- Fair Fight: Created and run by Stacey Abrams (pictured here), Fair Fight is building voter protection teams with state parties or local allies across the country. Its efforts are particularly targeting foreign interference and sophisticated voter suppression.
- Color of Change: Color of Change leads campaigns that build power for Black communities, challenging injustice, holding corporate and political leaders accountable, commissioning game-changing research on systems of inequality, and advancing solutions for racial justice that can transform our world. In addition to advocating for voting freedom and democracy, Color of Change fights for criminal justice and culture change; media, economic, and tech justice; and opposing right wing politics and white nationalism.
- Black Voters Matter: Black Voters Matter advocates for policies to expand voting rights and access, including expanded early voting, resisting voter ID, re-entry restoration of rights, and strengthening the Voting Rights Act. The group also advocates for policies that intersect with race, gender, economic, and other aspects of equity.
- Rock the Vote: This 30-year-old organization continues to active millions of young people across the country to exercise their rights and represent their interests.