Civic Participation in the Time of Coronavirus
As we head into the final quarter of a truly brutal year, the impulse may be to duck your head and hibernate from reality. Understandable, because pandemic fatigue is real. We’re surrounded by threats of violence, blatant racism, economic collapse, and catastrophic climate change-related disasters on top of the constant anxiety and unknowns of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to keep the motivation to stay active in life in general much less in the social and political landscape of our country. It is hard not to feel insignificant in the face of insurmountable challenges and obstacles, or that your voice is drowned out in the misery of the world today. So first, take a deep breath. You can’t change everything at once, but there are things you can do to make sure your voice is heard and your presence is counted.
First up, is the US Census (https://2020census.gov/), that decennial questionnaire that many people may be inclined to overlook. The census affects our lives in ways that we may not recognize – in school, at work, and across our communities. With far-reaching implications into the shape of our world for the next ten years it is imperative that every member of our society participate to generate the most accurate information possible.
It’s hard to make the census sound exciting, but if you want nice things in your community you gotta fill it out. All you have to do is spend 10 minutes to change the next 10 years. By providing basic information about your household you help determine how money is allocated for hospitals, schools, public transportation, and many other key services. The census also determines who receives resources and who represents us in government.
The census is safe to fill out, it is confidential by law and information provided cannot be used or shared anywhere else (https://2020census.gov/en/data-protection.html). There is no citizenship question on the census, and any information you provide cannot be used against you regardless of citizenship status.
This year data collection for the census stops September 30th, 2020. The deadline is fast approaching but there is still time to be counted.
So how do you complete the census?
By visiting https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html
By calling 844-330-2020
By mail if you received a census form in your mailbox.
For a more ‘instant gratification’ impact on your community, with a more regular impact than the once-every-ten-years census, you can make a valuable impact by voting. Exercising your right to vote and participate in local, state, and federal elections is extremely critical now more than ever.
“There are so many ways for us to express ourselves and our views – and voting is one of our most powerful tools for doing just that.” – Michelle Obama
With the coronavirus pandemic threatening to affect voter registration and participation in the United States this year, many leaders are taking action. More than 140 local and national CEOs have pledged to participate in A Day for Democracy, a non-partisan campaign to help ensure everyone has all the information they need to vote in local, state and national elections, whether at polling stations or in the safety of their homes. There is no advocacy for one candidate or party — regardless of whether you are a Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, Green Party or another party, your vote is needed.
If your employer/organization is not participating in A Day for Democracy with paid time off or provisions for employees to participate, you can still participate on your own to make your voice heard.
Many states are also increasing opportunities for you to vote by mail as a result of the pandemic, however, several specific steps are required to participate, including:
confirming you are registered to vote and registering if necessary;
requesting an application to vote by mail;
receiving, completing and submitting the application;
receiving, completing and returning on time the ballot itself.
You can also use TurboVote (https://turbovote.org), an online service that enables you to register, receive election reminders and obtain a mail-in ballot, if you choose to use one. You may also use a similar, credible online tool of your choice to learn more about your voting options.
How TurboVote works
Voter registration assistance:During the signup process, TurboVote guides you through registering to vote through your state’s online voter registration portal, where available, or through the paper-based National Voter Registration Form. If you are unsure of your registration status you can check it out here: https://www.usa.gov/confirm-voter-registration
By-mail ballot assistance: TurboVote guides you through the vote-by-mail process, including how to request a vote-by-mail ballot in states where a request is required.
Election reminders: Choose to receive reminders by email, text or both. The reminders include all the logistical information you need to successfully cast a ballot. TurboVote also sends notifications when election information changes.
Help desk: Reply to any text or email from TurboVote to get in touch with its help desk, staffed by voting experts, who can answer your questions in English or Spanish.
To learn more about A Day for Democracy and how companies are helping their employees register and access their right to vote, visit www.aDayforDemocracy.com.
If you’ve already submitted your census information and registered to vote, there are still things you can do that have an impact. Spread the word about the census (check out your state’s response rates here: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates/nrfu.html) and encourage voter turnout.
Vote Forward and Swing Left are working together to increase civic participation by sending letters to voters. Sending a Vote Forward letter is one of the easiest things you can do to increase turnout. It takes two minutes and one stamp, and meaningfully increases the odds that the recipient will vote. A concrete action you can take, no matter where you live, to get unlikely-to-vote fellow citizens to the polls.
You can sign up and get more information here: https://votefwd.org.