I wish the Supreme Court had ruled differently on the Voting Rights Act but I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward. We have a way to answer this, which is to vote — to care about voting, to prepare ourselves to vote, to register to vote, to vote in every single election we can, and to help others get set to vote.
If you will need an ID to vote, repugnant as that may be, bring it. If you don’t need an ID, or think you don’t, bring it anyway. I always do. I figure I can fight that battle later, but no one is going to stop me from voting on Election Day or at the early voting center.
If you don’t have an ID, find a way to get one. Start now. Call your Secretary of State’s office, the League of Women Voters, your party headquarters, someone in your congressional delegation — there are folks out there who are ready and able to help you. The process could take a while, don’t wait until the last minute.
Register to vote. If you think you’re registered already but haven’t voted in a while, or if you have recently registered, take that registration on a test drive. Vote in the next election that comes around — for School Board, referendum or local municipality. Don’t wait for a national election to discover you have a problem.
Once you have your own documents and registration squared away, help someone else get theirs.
If you have successfully voted in one election, you can be fairly confident that you’ll do okay in the next one — provided you haven’t moved in the meantime. But, again, take your ID even if you didn’t need it before, because the rules can change and are more likely to with the Supreme Court ruling. Also, don’t count on voting in the same place each time — polling places move around. Figure out where your polling place will be for each election and how you will get there; consider using early voting or mail-in absentee ballot to preclude something going wrong on Election Day.
Whenever you move, whether it’s across the country or around the block, updating your voter registration should be at the top of your “to do” list.
Inform yourself about the issues and candidates you will be voting for. Dig a little. Don’t count on the competing circulars, or just one person’s say-so. Listen to the different sides, and try to understand where they’re coming from and whose interests they serve. Ask for guidance from people you respect and tend to agree with, but make your own decisions. Your vote will be counted, but it only counts if it truly reflects your views and values.
Less than 63% of registered voters have voted in national elections since 1990 (from my quick survey of Census Bureau and other statistical reports online) and that does not account for those who were eligible to vote but didn’t register. These folks decided who would serve in Congress and who would be President. With what percent of the less than 63% voting were each of those powerful positions decided? If there were more than two individuals up for a given seat, it wouldn’t even be 51% of not even 63% of not even all the U.S. citizens eligible to vote. I’m not very good at math, but I can tell you that’s a pretty small fraction of all of us who have to live under their rule. And that does not fit the definition of Democracy.
The President appoints the Justices of the Supreme Court, subject to approval by the Senate. Our U.S. Senators (and Legislators) typically come up through the ranks of local office: State congresses, governors, attorneys general and the like. So we got what we paid for, so to speak, with our votes or lack thereof.
In their Supreme wisdom, a slim majority of our highest court, appointed and approved by Presidents and Senators who were elected with not even a majority of not even the entirety of the eligible voting public, decreed to put the past behind us and level the playing field for states to do what they will about voting procedures. Very well then, it is up to us — as it has always been — to put the best qualified, fairest, most conscientious and dedicated-to-democracy people into the posts that determine the local voting process.
Let’s do it. Let’s start now.