Op-Ed: Vote – Our Democracy Depends On It

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Primary Day at Mastricola School in Merrimack in 2020.

By Betty Tamposi, Terie Norelli, J. Bonnie Newman, John Broderick, Jr., Tom Sedoric and Casey Snyder

According to legend, at the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was asked by an onlooker what the delegates had created over that long, hot summer in Philadelphia. “A republic, if you can keep it,” Franklin replied.

Today, 233 years later amid a presidential election rife with partisan discord and human tragedy, the task for us could not be clearer: will we vote to keep our republic?

All elections are consequential. Some are more consequential than others but only a few in our nation’s history rise to the current level of Constitutional alarm. The 2020 election could become transcendent in importance. We have come together, Republicans and Democrats and Independents alike, to affirm our fierce allegiance to the words spoken by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: “…that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We may have partisan policy differences, but today we stand together as one when it comes to the fate of our democracy. Lincoln’s America faced and passed a similar test of resolve with the election of 1864 which was set against the backdrop of a bloody Civil War. The bottom depths of the Great Depression did not stop a transfer of power from President Herbert Hoover to President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. We must unite as Americans and pass this test on November 3rd because history and our future as a democratic republic demand no less.

Thomas L. Friedman, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, recently said this election had a D-Day level of importance: “The American soldiers who landed on Normandy Beach, under a barrage of Nazi artillery fire, on June 6, 1944, were actually voting with their lives so that the rest of us could vote with our ballots – in person or by mail – in every election from that day forth, even if it was in the middle of a pandemic.”

This is not hyperbole. We are living through a perfect storm of events of which any one event would test our collective meddle. The Covid-19 pandemic has taken more than 200,000 American lives and continues to spread across our nation; the economy is stalled in a downturn caused by the pandemic; and a social justice awakening has echoes and turmoil not seen since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s while our Supreme Court is disrupted once again.

It is one thing to have an election in tumultuous times. It is quite another when, regrettably, the incumbent President of the United States seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the election with salvos of misinformation (“rigged!”), confusion, and threats to not abide by the results. Our current President publicly shows indifference regarding intelligence reports about foreign interference in the election, including interference by the Russians. Additionally, the head of the United States Postal Service may be undermining the ability of the USPS to handle the expected large volumes of mail-in ballots around election day.

These unprecedented anti-democratic maneuvers can be dizzying and chaotic but, to borrow a phrase from the Civil Rights era, we must keep our eyes focused on the prize. In our federal system, each state is responsible for its election procedures. We applaud leaders in New Hampshire for recognizing the challenge of the moment by expanding absentee ballot guidelines to include the justifiable fear of Covid-19.

We call on a multi-generational coalition of citizens across the political spectrum to come together to protect the legitimacy of this election. Maggie Goodlander, an adjunct professor of constitutional law at the University of New Hampshire, said earlier this year “we’ll have to be ready for anything, and this is going to require an all hands-on deck kind of effort.” So, what can we as citizens do? We propose:

Plan how to vote. Register now if you haven’t (Vote.org is a helpful clearinghouse of voter information) or register at your polling place on election day if needed.

If voting absentee, request and complete your ballot as early as possible. If you can, drop your completed ballot at the town or city clerk’s office and, it pains us to say this, bypass the USPS. Ballots must be received by the town clerk’s office on or before election day.

Please be mindful of how you return your completed absentee ballot. Unlike other states, New Hampshire will not have ballot drop boxes except in town offices that choose to have them. Many do not. Ballots left in boxes for normal town business at any time will, by law, not be counted. 

If you do use the USPS, mail your absentee ballot early. Either by drop off or mail, you can easily track the status of your absentee ballot request and returned ballot online at the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office:  https://app.sos.nh.gov/Public/AbsenteeBallot.aspx

If voting in person on election day, plan accordingly and be prepared to have to wait given the Covid-19 protections that will be in place at each location.

If you are younger and healthy, please volunteer and become a poll worker if your town or city needs them. It is likely the most patriotic service you can do in 2020.

Share what you know about proper voting procedures with your neighbors.

Be patient. This will likely be an election night unlike any other due to the tens of millions of ballots that will be cast other than in person. Media, activists, and political party leaders at every level should tap the brakes on instant gratification and do their patriotic duty to prepare people for the likelihood that results may take days or longer to emerge.

With a little extra effort from all of us, we can ensure a free and fair election where every vote is counted, and every voter’s voice heard – whatever their voting choice.

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