Feeling Patriotic? Get Out the Vote

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Most Americans feel more patriotic as July 4 approaches, even under current conditions. In a presidential election year, with many state and local issues and offices on the ballot as well, that sentiment may be particularly strong.

The best way to put that feeling into action and express your love of liberty and independence is by voting. But too often, needless obstacles are put in the way of letting everyone cast a ballot.

The first step to making sure that you are able to exercise the franchise that so many Americans have fought and died for is to register. In Missouri, the last day to register to vote in the Aug. 4 primary is July 8. That date is coming up quickly. If you’re not already signed up, don’t miss that deadline.

Sadly, in today’s highly politicized atmosphere, even something as basic as voting becomes an issue. As the pandemic continues, one serious problem is access to the polls. 

Long lines and unreasonable conditions for recent elections in Georgia and Kentucky show how difficult it can become to cast a ballot. The number of polling places has been cut in many places, as election judges are difficult to come by. And for people whose health or age make them wary of standing in long lines to vote, the question of absentee ballots has become a political punching bag.

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Many people, including President Donald Trump, question the security of mail-in ballots, even as some of them use that very system to cast their own ballots. In April, the president actually said that the GOP should fight mail-in voting because the system, “for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.” 

Voter suppression shouldn’t be part of any party’s platform.

Others, including those in charge of elections where voting by mail has been allowed for years, say that the system is safe and secure and a good way to encourage and ensure that as many registered voters as possible to have their say. 

In our bistate area, the issue has been addressed different ways.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed two bills last month that provide applications to vote by mail to all recent voters. The new laws also make election day a state holiday, expand early voting hours and improve the signature verification process. 

“In the face of a pandemic, massive economic upheaval and renewed calls for racial justice,” Pritzker said, “it’s more important than ever that Illinoisans can hold accountable a truly representative and transparent government – and that means ensuring all eligible residents can wield their right to vote in a way that doesn’t risk their personal health.

“Sending vote by mail applications to residents who have participated in recent elections will allow more people to exercise that right from the safety of their own homes and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson isn’t quite so enthusiastic. He signed voting legislation that will allow Missourians to vote by mail in August and November. But in most cases, ballots will have to be notarized unless voters are affected by COVID-19 because of their age or previous health conditions.

Parson said: “I fully agree with President Trump’s position and do not support any plan to expand mass mail-in voting without a reason. This only enables voter fraud and ballot harvesting, and I am proud to sign this bill to stop that process from happening in our state.”

Still, efforts to allow all eligible Missourians to vote without having their ballots notarized are being pursued in a lawsuit that the state Supreme Court recently ruled could move ahead. The ACLU praised that ruling, saying that no one should have to put their health at risk to cast a ballot and that governments should make voting as easy as possible.

That stance makes sense. At a time when democracy itself can seem fragile and patriotism should be on the rise, the ability to vote is more critical than ever. 

So when elections roll around, declare your independence. Make sure that you are registered, that you cast your ballot for candidates and issues you believe in and that you work to make sure that everyone else who is eligible can do the same, by the most safe, secure and convenient means available.

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