Hudson is the international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union
With the first presidential debate behind us and less than 30 days before Election Day, many hard working men and women will plan to
vote early. They will enter public libraries and community centers across the country and leave proudly displaying “I voted,” buttons and stickers.
They might even explain to family and friends that early voting means having flexibility to accommodate work schedules or transportation issues, simplify physical challenges or fulfill obligations to care for loved ones.
Their early voting is a triumph in states such as Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where the Republican party has meticulously worked to discourage voters by shortening early voting schedules, cutting weekend hours and slashing the number of voting days. Their early voting could also be seen as a direct hit to the 34 Republican-led legislatures that pushed restrictive voter ID laws to keep women, people with disabilities, seniors and people of color from the ballot box.
For these reasons, more people must take advantage of early voting opportunities between now and Nov. 6 and send the message that no voters will be left behind at the polls on Election Day.
Early voting, already allowed in 32 states and the District of Columbia, is a critical strategy to surmount voter suppression efforts by the GOP. Republicans supporting Mitt Romney for president will stop at nothing to disenfranchise millions, including the hardest-hit demographics such as African American workers facing disproportionate joblessness and increasing income inequality.
We have to use every tool in our arsenal to ensure that all voters have can participate in the American democracy.
Too much is at stake. There are 15 cases pending nationwide on issues involving restrictive early voting, voter registration and voter ID laws. We have a tax system that favors the wealthy over working people. The majority of working people are concerned their children will be worse off than them. The middle class is shrinking. We still have gross racial disparities in education, employment, health outcomes.
If we fail to vote, those who do not want to see the middle class prosper will continue efforts beyond 2012 to marginalize and suppress the voices of those who object to their special interest agenda.
Let’s be clear: Romney dismissed 47 percent of voters. Romney has no idea how to create jobs here in America. Romney refuses to acknowledge his economic agenda — keeping tax cuts for the rich, turning Medicare into a complicated voucher system and crippling federal programs such as the public school system.
These anti-working family, anti-middle class values are why the Service Employees International Union believes that every American should have uncomplicated access to the ballot box.
The Advancement Project recently noted that threats to voting in 2012 include laws reducing the days and/or hours of advance voting in Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
African Americans are twice as likely to cast early ballots as their white counter parts. In Florida during the last presidential election, for example, more than half of the African Americans who cast ballots voted early. In fact, at least two-thirds of African Americans in five of the Florida’s 67 counties, cast their ballots before Election Day, according to state voter analysis by Reuters.
Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy. African American, Latino, and young voters demonstrated that when they came to the polls in droves in the 2008 election. According to a July 2012 report from the National Urban League, African American voter turnout of 64.7 percent was a significant factor in Obama’s victory that year, with 2.4 million more African American voters casting ballots than in 2004.
As hard as we fight to make sure everyone — regardless of income, race, creed or age — can vote, the powers that be will fight to put more hurdles in the way. The right wing knows that the easiest way to stem progress for a stronger and fairer economy is to silence communities and drown out the voices of working families.
American history is littered with examples of our nation’s government using callous tactics and policies to keep people of color and other minority groups from exercising their constitutional right to vote.But, any move to disenfranchise voters, regardless of racial ethnicity or background, is a disgrace.
Like those early voters bursting with pride, let’s find our when and where we can cast our votes our early and echo the message that we will not be left behind on Election Day and we will not be silenced—not this week, not next week and not in 2014, 2016 or beyond.
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