The Coronavirus pandemic is impacting every aspect of our society and exposing deep, systemic inequalities that are killing Black people. As the news changes minute-to-minute, BET and Color Of Change PAC are teaming up to make sure Black people have the clear and focused information we need to get help, take action and support the hardest hit in our communities.
Last week, Wisconsin voters experienced what too many Black people struggle with in most U.S. elections: waiting for hours on long lines and a stark choice between personal safety and executing one’s voting rights. After decades of plotting to disenfranchise Black voters, Republicans are now using the coronavirus pandemic to stop as many people from voting as they can. They’ve even admitted that this was a part of their strategy. That’s why, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos brazenly donned head-to-toe protective equipment while telling voters they were safe to defy the state-wide order to socially distance in order to vote.
Lakesha, a Color of Change member from Milwaukee, told us the lines of healthy people waiting in the rain to vote made her tear up. “We were targeted as a state which traditionally votes Democratic. The Republican Party continues to attack our freedoms with this bigoted political warfare.”
In 2016, Donald Trump tried to trick us. Remember when he told Black voters, your lives are miserable, vote for me. "What do you have to lose?" Well now we know: we're losing our lives. The fact is that 81% of coronavirus deaths in Milwaukee, WI, have been Black people, and last Tuesday’s dangerous voting conditions may make that problem even worse.
Fortunately, we have the power to protect our rights and our health. This week in #TheBlackResponse to COVID-19, we’re sharing five ways you can protect your vote during the coronavirus pandemic
- Stay Informed About Your State’s Election Dates: Unlike Wisconsin, 14 states have already postponed spring elections until the fall in order to protect voters from COVID-19. Sign up for TurboVote so you can get notifications about changes in your area, while remaining safe. You can vote on time and help replace Donald Trump with a responsible President in November.
- Register to Vote Trump Out and Encourage Your Friends To Do The Same: Millions of people are usually registered to vote before a presidential election. With in-person voter registration drives shut down, it’s up to us to register Black people from home. If COVID-19 has you living somewhere new, it’s also essential that you request an absentee ballot ASAP if you want to vote in November.
- Demand Funding for Vote-By-Mail Options: The option to vote by mail can protect public health and the integrity of our elections. It may have been brought on by our current circumstances, but we need to make voting safer and more convenient permanently.
- Fight to Protect Voting Rights Where You Live: Have you faced long lines or voter purges in your city? Is your state refusing to expand vote-by-mail or early voting during the pandemic? You can start your own campaign and Color of Change will help you get the word out to ensure your vote counts.
- Speak Out for Voting Rights: Trump and his allies are doing all they can to discourage and disenfranchise us ahead of the most important election we’ve seen in generations. Election results have already shown us that Black people’s opinions make a difference. Why not make a video to share your voting story and tell your community why they should prepare to vote this year.
While some may use this pandemic to reinforce structural inequality, their brazen actions are exposing these problems to more people than ever before. After Wisconsin, millions of people are finally realizing that the voter suppression experienced by Black communities could also be wielded against them. Let’s build on that momentum to protect voting rights in all states. Voting is more important than ever, and it’s critical that we do all we can to help as many people get registered, stay registered, and elect leaders who won’t play deadly political games with our lives.
Rashad Robinson is spokesperson for Color Of Change PAC is a Political Action Committee focused on building independent Black political power, amplifying Black voices, electing candidates who share our values, and holding them accountable to our communities. You can find him on Twitter @RashadRobinson.