My husband and I decided a while back that we were going to vote by absentee ballot. I know that a lot of folks are voting in person because they want to be sure their votes are counted this election cycle, and I get that. But there’s a pandemic going on, and while we don’t entirely trust the voting system here in New York City, due to a legacy of nepotism that harkens back the era of Tammany Hall and that has led to embarrassing recent events like the way things went wrong two years ago, and then also two years before that, we also knew that, well, our votes didn’t really matter. New York State is definitely going for Biden, and by a significant enough margin that it will be called that way on election night. The Governor and U.S. Senator seats are not on the ballot this time, and in our district, all of our reps are guaranteed to be Democrats, so realistically, the primary was more important than the general. The only significant thing on the ballot this cycle is the option to vote for Democratic candidates on the Working Families Party line, WHICH YOU ALL SHOULD BE DOING if you live in New York. Governor Cuomo has made it harder for third parties to exist in New York by increasing the number of votes they need to stay on the ballot to 130K or 2% of the total vote in the presidential election, whichever is higher, and he did this specifically as an attack on the WFP, which uses its power to push him to the left on the issues, and has endorsed more progressive candidates in primaries that he doesn’t support, including Cynthia Nixon when she ran against him in 2018. Cuomo pushed through changes to the laws governing third parties during the pandemic as his way of getting payback for that, so remember to vote for Joe Biden on the WFP line (yes, you are still voting for the Joe Biden. Because of fusion voting, we can vote for a candidate on different lines and thereby support third parties’ agendas without having to undermine Democrats). Plus, we’re lucky that NY State made it possible for everyone to vote by absentee this cycle — even if they did it in a stupid way, by an executive order that made it so the health exception applies to everyone, not by changing the law to make mail-in-voting possible for everyone the way that many states have, and basically all states should, since we know that “voter fraud” is a right-wing political tactic a not real thing that has ever affected any election in this country in any significant way. So supporting mail-in-voting is important too.
Of course, once again, they didn’t make it easy. In Brooklyn, errors in a print run which some say was caused by a no-bid contract given to a particular printing company made it so that some voters received absentee ballots with their names on them, but envelopes with those absentee ballots that had someone else’s name on them. Our ballots came with the correct names on both, but, because of the issue, we received a new set of correct ballots, with the instruction that if we had already voted with the old absentee ballots, we should use the new ones to vote again. Yeah, that’s not going to cause any problems whatsoever, is it? And then there’s also the fact that these absentee ballots have been sent out for years, and the instructions for how to fill out the ballot somehow still don’t match the ballot.
How does something like this happen repeatedly, in state after state after state, in a country that claims to so value Democracy? According to some scholars, it’s because we refuse to update an archaic system to reflect a changing America, leading, in effect, to minority rule. We talk so much about the founding fathers and the Constitution that we forget that all were flawed products of their time (not to mention racist, sexist and classist) who could never even have envisioned the United States of today. Or could it be that the type of people who talk about them the most — such as the “originalists” on the Supreme Court, soon to have three Trump appointees among its ranks — recognize that clearly, and their espousal of those values is a clear effort to lead us back there?
Yes, we voted, and I love seeing so many people proudly display that they have as well. This election is incredibly important, and it’s incredibly encouraging to see the voter turnout this election cycle has engendered on both sides of the aisle. However, especially when some votes count much more than others, voting must be only the beginning. If we want our Democracy to survive, we need to continue the fight for it and involvement in it — taking to the streets, supporting organizations that fight for change on issues we care about, getting involved in our communities, contacting our representatives to make sure that they represent us, creating media that encourages people to think and act — that this terrible president has spurred long after he’s gone. Just as Trump isn’t the only problem, let’s remember that voting is far from the only solution.