66 MILLION REASONS TO VOTE

José López Zamorano | La Red Hispana 
Photo Credit: Red Hispana

More than 66 million voters had already cast their ballots at the time of writing this column, one week before the November 3 elections. This equates to nearly 20 million more votes than were cast early during the 2016 election.

If the goal was simply to break records, the goal has been achieved. In 2016, around 138 million electoral ballots were deposited before and during election day throughout the country. Early votes would thus be reaching almost half of that total, and it is not yet the day of the elections.

Although I have lived in this country for many years and have covered every election cycle since the Clinton era as a journalist, I have never witnessed such a widespread perception that much more is at stake in the 2020 election process than the immediate political future from United States.

Each of the 66 million people who have already sent their vote by mail or braved the long lines to vote in person, did so for their candidates or their favorite causes: health, the economy, racial justice, immigration reform or the fight against climate change.

But perhaps there is a higher reason that transcends political trends, religious affiliations, economic status, or racial or ethnic origin: that, amid the greatest public health crisis of our lives, it is simply immoral to be a mere bystander.

But the unprecedented level of enthusiasm this year is accompanied by a mixed sense of anxiety and outrage, especially among minorities of color, at the perception of deliberate attempts to suppress the vote.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced that it succeeded in defusing 26 legal efforts to suppress or marginalize minority voting in 20 states and Puerto Rico. In some states they sought to eliminate or limit universal voting by mail, in others there were attempts to purge the electoral roll or to reduce the number of ballot boxes to a minimum.

Yet blatant attempts to suppress the vote appear, so far, to be backfiring: Many voters of color responded to the possibility of harassment or intimidation at the polls on November 3, voting early or by mail. Hence the historical figures for early voting participation.

With 32 million men and women of Latino descent eligible to vote during the current election cycle, we do not know precisely how many have done so or how many plan to do so, although there has been a notable increase in the participation of Latinas and youth.

The expectation is that the big news of November 4 will be a record participation of our community, because as a veteran political activist told me: the giant is awake and upset.

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