(This article first appeared in the May-June 2017 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)
By Executive Vice President Debby Szeredy
Voter registration in our country is in a sorry state. in the 2016 general election, not all eligible voters were registered (only 79 percent) – and nearly half of those registered voters did not vote.
Lack of voter turnout has consequences. What can your family lose by not voting? Pretty much everything – bills can be passed to change or end items that are important to you, including wages, health benefits, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, sick and family medical leave, vacation time, lunch breaks, right to organize, health and safety protections at work, pensions, and retirement benefits.
Legislation could also affect issues like your ability to take out bank loans, leaving you more susceptible to payday loan sharks. You may find more proposals to put nuclear sites in your backyard or pipelines near your water supply. There may be fewer government programs to help you when environmental disasters strike, to obtain affordable housing, to keep national parks open and to create climate change solutions.
One way we can prevent legislation and regulations that hurt our communities is increasing voter turnout. We can help our sisters and brothers by actively campaigning for “Vote by Mail” initiatives.
Once a person is registered, “Vote by Mail” makes it easier to cast a ballot. The three states that have “Vote by Mail” as a state law, Washington (since 2011), Oregon (since 2000) and Colorado (since 2013), were among the highest in voter turnout for the 2016 Election and had a very high percentage of registered voters who voted.
Now, let’s take a look at a state that does not have “Vote by Mail” - New York. New York has no early voting and absentee ballots must have an excuse. Even though the state still saw a high voter turnout percentage, there is a still clear difference with the “Vote by Mail” states in regard to the percentage of registered voters who actually cast a ballot.
Take a Stand
Are you willing to take a stand and make sure that more Americans “Vote by Mail” in the next election? Enhance your postal job by having millions of ballots mailed by the USPS. Do your part to bring about democracy by joining us in our effort to bring “Vote by Mail” to every state.
What can every APWU member do now to protect the mail service while combating voter suppression and apathy?
One easy option APWU members may wish to consider is to sign up, with their family members, to vote by absentee ballot for the next election (if no excuse absentee voting is an option in their state). This helps support our jobs. An additional benefit is the members would not have to wait in lines. We could be an example for people to utilize mail service, and at the same time bring about more democracy in America.
If your state has a “no excuse absentee ballot” system, help get your community to sign up to receive their ballot by mail. How about co-workers, too? If your state does not have “no excuse required absentee ballots” or mandatory “Vote by Mail,” help get them passed in your state.
There are 27 states which offer no-excuse absentee voting. Do not forget to check if your state has a one-time request to receive a mail ballot for every election.
You can also get involved in the Democracy Initiative, which APWU has partnered with, to help fight voter suppression. Find more information at www.democracyinitiative.org.
The following websites can help you find out what your state voting laws are. You can also check with your Secretary of State’s website. If you are not registered to vote, you can go on the following websites:
The League of Women Voters has sites in many states and provides updates on what initiatives and laws are being worked on or are being fought to keep. Visit www.lwv.org to find out more information about what is going on in your state.
To better ensure delivery and return of ballots, voters should know the deadline to request and return a ballot, as well as investigate all options in returning the ballot. Voters can request the return ballots be hand-canceled with a round stamp at any post office to ensure the ballot meets state postmarking requirements. Be certain to follow instructions, provide a signature, add postage (if required) and contact your local election office for assistance.
Overseas military and civilian voters can obtain much more information at www.fvap.gov.
There are many compelling reasons to “Vote by Mail,” including no more long lines and no difficulty getting time off from work. You can take your time reviewing the ballot to learn about the candidates and measures. It lowers costs for your state and causes fewer problems with voter IDs. All in all it creates better informed voters. You do not have to worry about where your polling place is. “Vote by Mail” also leads to guaranteed security of ballots, since they are handled by trained postal workers.
It is up to us as postal workers to be an example at work, support our jobs and take pride in the fact that we help make democracy happen! So let us all pledge to start today. Make that call or go online and do your part. Everything you need is in this article to get started. Let us be a part of the democracy movement.