Election Day has finally arrived not just for the presidential election but U.S. Senate and a multitude of offices at the federal, state and local levels. For the newer COVID-19 era voter, Election Day has come to look more like Election week or Election month or whatever time period marked the beginning of early and/or mail-in voting in whatever jurisdiction the voter happens to reside. As states retool their election procedures, the rules are dizzying. Law suits are multiple. Confusion is common. It might be enough to make us once again think in terms of whether it might be a good idea to have common election procedures throughout the country or at least where federal offices are involved, if possible. However, States decide their own rules and it can be complicated.
As a former high school social studies teacher myself and even as a former elected official and also as someone currently involved in politics, I would offer these comments on the meaning of the 2020 Presidential and General Election today.
Kudos to the millions who have voted and who will vote despite extreme conditions and to the workers who make it happen. My figurative hat goes out to you, to all of you multiple millions of Americans who have braved the weather, the COVID-19 while wearing masks to protect your neighbors, illnesses, frailty, extremely difficult financial conditions, disruption, confusion and all of it both in order to Vote and to make voting happen! In a time when there are some serious voter suppression attempts, all of you are the heroes! In some states the number of voters already exceeded the total number of votes cast in 2016 even before election day. We are sometimes told we never appreciate something until we have lost it or are in fear of losing it. Many voters commented this year they did not vote in 2016 because they thought it did not matter. This year they realize it matters. Also many younger voters are voting for the first time. I hope it continues.
Fairness Matters. Throughout our history we have struggled toward advancing the cause of free and fair elections. At our founding only male property owners could vote. After a bloody Civil War, African American men received the right to vote by the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution, a right that has been under challenge ever since sometimes by governments or individuals by laws, practices, and voter suppression. Women received the right to vote exactly 100 years ago in 1920 after multiple protests to secure it. They were followed by those 18 years of age or older in the 26th Amendment. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was intended to protect voters in the states, voting rights relative to affected states were weakened further in the 2013 Supreme Court decision, Shelby County v. Holder, over a strong dissent by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. States were now free to pass rules, even if discriminatory in effect, without the federal government becoming involved.
Where are we now? Now we are in a time of great change. While multiple laws have been passed to restrict voting, some have been passed to expand it allowing voting by mail without the necessity of showing disability or that you will be out of the jurisdiction on election day. Other states send mail in ballots to registered voters in advance of election day. Even so, long lines are expected at the polls and health and safety measures must be taken.
There are Americans who resist change in our demographics, in our technology, and in an unknown future and resist to the point that old prejudices and animosities resurface. Fear is common. It is true we have had a lot to be concerned about. Others look for hope. I had an older friend whose father’s business was as an “iceman” and delivered blocks of ice to homes before refrigerators. He told me his father refused to believe the “new” idea of refrigerators would catch on. He lost his business. We are going through a very tough time. I believe it is not time to go back but to take the best of the past, work together now in hope, and move on. Generally I believe the future wins.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.