Covid has changed everything. It shocks the senses when we realize that our normal routines and expectations are no longer available or safe. It can be disorienting and difficult to plan for the future as even accustomed routes to shop, work, go to school and worship are challenged. Scientists warn that the virus will not leave over the summer and to expect a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.
This begs the question, how will we vote during a pandemic? The November election is one of the most important in our lifetimes, and it is expected there will be a record turnout. It is important to consider how it will affect all districts, especially in black and brown communities where coronavirus rates of sickness and death are comparably higher. We must remember the most vulnerable among us, and yet recognize this virus can harm any one of us and is not restricted by age, ethnicity, occupation, gender or political affiliation. We must plan today if we do not want a repeat of the 2016 CT election where people waited 3 to 4 hours to cast their ballot in Urban areas, or this year in WI where over 50 people contracted COVID while waiting to vote at the polls.
Connecticut has some of the most restrictive absentee ballot statutes in the country. Currently, you have to have an excuse to vote by mail – be ill or disabled, in the military, or out of town. ** Even though the Secretary of State in CT has issued a comprehensive plan to address accessibility, in November, a majority of voters will still be forced to choose between their health and their fundamental right to vote. The fear of contracting COVID-19 by voting in person is all the excuse any registered voter should need to be able to use an absentee ballot. Legislators have the ability to change the statute, but we are running out of time.
How as people of faith can we respond? One way is to contact your State Legislators by sending an email. Please contact your State Senator first then your State Representative regarding this. Find out who your CT state legislators are. (When on Find Your Legislator page, Click State Senate/Representative District link to access their email address)
Here is a script you can use:
Dear Senator/Representative___________. My name is ______ and I am a constituent of yours. I live at __________( your address). I am emailing you today to encourage you to hold a special legislative session to revise the state statute to allow us to cast an absentee ballot with no restrictions during this pandemic whether or not we are sick.
As you are aware our state has some of the most restrictive statues in the country relating to absentee ballot use. You and your colleagues have been called to lead together during this extraordinary time in history. The safely of those exercising their fundamental right to vote is a nonpartisan issue. All CT voters should have the option to vote using an absentee ballot using the excuse of Fear of COVID as illness. Time is of the essence. Thank you and please stay safe. [your name, church, town]
** In Massachusetts a new law has passed clarifying that any person taking precaution related to COVID-19 in response to a declared state of emergency or from guidance from a medical professional, local or state health official, or any civil authority shall be deemed unable by reason of physical disability to cast their vote in person at a polling location. Read more
** In Rhode Island, you do not need a specific reason to vote by mail. Read more.