By Traci Lawrence (“Terry Wylis”)—Communications Committee

2020 is not merely an election year. It is, quite literally, a fight for America.

We as a country have always cherished our freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution—our rights. The right of free speech. The right to worship as we choose (or don’t choose). The right to assemble peaceably in protest of wrongs in our government. And so very, very many more. And the right we perhaps hold most dear—the right to participate in our democracy; the right to VOTE.

This year as never before, that right—and as I consider it, our civic duty as American citizens—is being threatened.

At the Democratic National Convention a few weeks back, former First Lady Michelle Obama presented both the problem facing us as a nation and a plan each of us can make to solve it:

… [Folks] who know they cannot win fair and square at the ballot box are doing everything they can to stop us from voting. They’re closing down polling places in minority neighborhoods. They’re purging voter rolls. They’re sending people out to intimidate voters, and they’re lying about the security of our ballots. These tactics are not new. …

We have got to vote… We’ve got to vote early, in person if we can. We’ve got to request our mail-in ballots right now, tonight, and send them back immediately, and follow up to make sure they’re received. And then make sure our friends and families do the same.

We have got to grab our comfortable shoes, put on our masks, pack a brown bag dinner and maybe breakfast too, because we’ve got to be willing to stand in line all night if we have to. …

[If] we want to keep the possibility of progress alive in our time, if we want to be able to look our children in the eye after this election, we have got to reassert our place in American history. …

This concept of “plan your vote” took off. Within 48 hours, NBC News had launched a page on their website to help people do just that. The interactive page provides information to voters in any state about requesting absentee ballots, whether CV-19 is considered a valid excuse for absentee ballots (if an excuse is needed at all), registration deadlines, mailed ballot dates, deadlines for returning ballots, early in-person voting days. Everything you need to plan your vote.

Utah has had universal mail-in voting since 2012. It’s loved by both Democrats and Republicans. But there may be a few snags this year, so we offer some planning suggestions:

  • Make sure you’re registered. Check back every couple of weeks, just in case. If voting in-person, check before you head to the polling place.
  • The whole mess with the Postal Service isn’t just affecting a few big Democratic-led states. It’s affecting the whole country. So PLAN to mail yours back as soon as you get it—or better still, if you can, drop it off at a curbside drop box.
  • Because of the pandemic, there is a shortage of poll workers—who tend to be seniors, a high-risk category for CV-19. As such, there may also out of necessity be a shortage of in-person polling places. (as of this post, Utah County has no list of in-person voting locations.) If you feel comfortable doing so, consider becoming a poll worker.
  • If you must vote in-person—whether because of special needs or personal preference—consider voting early (Utah County is offering only one location for this, and for only 3 days).
  • If voting in-person, PLAN ahead:
    • Wear your mask
    • Bring your own pen
    • Bring a small bottle of hand sanitizer, just in case the polling place has run out. (Don’t forget to rub a little on the outside of the bottle where you pulled it out of your pocket/purse.)
  • In-person voting could mean long lines. PLAN ahead:
    • November can be cold. Make sure you’re dressed to be outside for a while.
    • Bring a water bottle and a snack or two.
    • You might consider a folding chair.
    • Be patient with others in line. You’re all there for the same reason.
    • Don’t give up. You have the RIGHT to cast your vote.
  • There have been rumors about intimidators showing up at polling places.
    • Remember: you’re an American citizen and a registered voter. You have the RIGHT to cast your vote.
    • Get a Voting Buddy (someone you know is safe from CV-19). Go to the polls together and watch each other’s back.
    • If you see something, say something. Or at the very least pull out your phone and document it.

It’s time to get this DONE. It’s time to take back our country. It’s time to VOTE.