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How You Can Make Sure Your Vote Counts

Knowledge is power.

Politics

We have a leader who turns a blind eye to racial injustice, face masks and coronavirus testing and thinks it's OK to blind the eyes of peaceful protesters so he can snag a photo op.

I'll walk barefoot across shards of glass and still stand in a line all night to vote him out of office.

Although standing in line all night is a bit of a stretch, more than a few hours has been the norm for 2020 voting so far. In Kentucky's primaries, there were only 200 polling places statewide, down from 3,700 in the 2018 election. But only one polling place was in Jefferson County this past week, where 600,000 of the registered voters live. Half of Black Kentuckians live there, too.

This is classic voter suppression.

Mary Long / Shutterstock

Georgians faced longer lines than usual earlier this month, also. Furthermore, they encountered ballot shortages, which was a whole other issue across many states. Tens of thousands of voters didn't receive the absentee ballots that they requested. And in Maryland, where all registered voters were supposed to have automatically received ballots in the mail, about 160,000 ballots (or roughly 5% of those actually sent out) weren't even delivered, according to CNN.

And Georgia's new voting machine glitches? Those technical issues probably could've been resolved ahead of time through machine testing and volunteer training had 'Rona not forced stay-at-home orders. Experts say these problems only occurred in our predominantly Black communities so that possibly sounds like another case of voter suppression.

Voting rights groups call the most recent primaries a disaster and a sneak-peek into what'll happen in November, particularly in counties where the majority of residents are not white, if these machine glitches and ballot shortage issues aren't fixed. Add to all of that the health officials' predictions of a vicious resurgence of the 'Rona. This pandemic is turning 2020 into pandemonium!

So, how should we prepare? What do we need to do to minimize wait times in line, protect our health and evict the tenant from the DC mansion that sits along Black Lives Matter Plaza? Here's where to start:

Make sure you and your eligible loved ones register to vote online.

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It's a fact that everyone who can vote isn't already registered. New voter registration has declined during the quarantine period. States like Virginia saw 73% fewer registrations in April than it did during the same time in 2016, possibly due to the shutdown of the Department of Motor Vehicles where most residents register to vote. And despite being able to register online, Kentuckian registrations also flatlined in April because door-to-door canvassing and in-person registration booths are much more successful. However, online registration is our best option right now.

If you're a regular of Club Quarantine, then you probably attended #CouchParty 2.0 with When We All Vote, co-chaired by our forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama. The organization reached over 100,000 eligible voters during the virtual registration drive in April. Another resourceful site is Vote.org. Both websites keep the registration process simple. Vote.org says it takes less than two minutes.

It's also best to go ahead and register now even though the deadline for the general election is in October. In case you're a procrastinator, you can get the exact date for your state here. But I repeat: Do it today!

Check your voter registration status. 

Nowadays, anything can happen. We might somehow get purged from the voter roll. Or we may arrive at the polling station only for the volunteer to tell us they can't find our name. The devil is a liar, as my cousin often says. There's a link on the When We All Vote homepage that you can click to be sure you're still set to vote before you get to the polls.

Request a general (presidential) absentee ballot.

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Most states offer this option. Again, some states may even automatically send a general absentee ballot to every registered voter like they did for this year's primaries. (If you live in Washington state, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Hawaii, then this doesn't apply to you because your states hold all of their elections entirely by mail anyway.)

Currently 28 states and the District of Columbia offer "no-excuse" voting by mail, which means any voter can get an absentee ballot if they ask for one. States with stricter laws, like my home state of Virginia, require voters to provide a valid reason on their application explaining why they can't appear at the polls. You have to choose one from the list and provide proof but don't fret: COVID-19 is still in these streets and counts as a legitimate excuse.

Be mindful of the tight deadlines because you want your vote to count! Some states need to receive the ballots back on Election Day while others accept a postmark. States like Virginia will send ballots out 45 days before the election so try to get it as soon as possible. Check your state's absentee ballot deadlines and requirements here.

Also be mindful of your signature. Now is not the time to get fancy with our swoops, slashes and squiggles if that's not how we signed our driver's license. The last thing we want is for our vote to become a provisional ballot and not be counted because the person who compared the signatures thinks ours is inconsistent.

If you don't receive your absentee ballot in a timely manner, please contact your county registrar or Department of Elections. Don't sit at home and wait like this one couple did during the DC primary and ended up not voting at all. If your ballot still doesn't come in the mail, you'll definitely need to vote in-person.

Consider early voting.

I get it. In-person voting is what we're trying to avoid because how can you realistically stand six feet apart on Election Day? Somebody is going to be breathing on the back of your neck and then asking if you mind that they stand that close to you. Early voting is usually available. With early voting, we have a window of time to choose our candidate before November 3. Check early voting dates for your state here.

Know your voting rights before you go!

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Did you know that there is an "inactive" list of voters? If your name isn't on the regular voter roll and you haven't recently voted, your name could be on the other list. If this is the case, you can still cast a regular ballot in the current election. You can also call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-687-8683.

And did you know that if you're already in line when polls close, then you can still vote? Thankfully, voters at the lone polling place in Jefferson County, KY, knew that when some smart official decided to lock the doors promptly at 6pm. They banged on the windows but apparently candidate Charles Booker had to file an injunction with a judge to reopen the doors until 6:30 pm. I'm telling y'all: Voter suppression is real!

But even if you have to vote on actual Election Day after all, do not get discouraged. Awaken bright and early on November 3 and protect yourself: mask, disposable gloves, a little sanitizer, ID and a basic knowledge of your voting rights. And the minute your thoughts shift to "I can't deal with the corona and crowds today!", picture the current tenant in the DC mansion hunkered down in his bunker issuing tear gas orders for another four years all because we're demanding our right to live. Equally.

We can't deal with that, either, sis.

Check your voter registration status or register to vote today at Vote.org.

Featured image by Shutterstock

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