The coronavirus pandemic has hindered much activity throughout the spectrum of American life, but like any disaster, it is also allowing people, businesses and organizations to stop and contemplate how things could actually be better for us in the long run.
Enter former attorney general Eric Holder, who is using this opportunity to rethink how Americans vote. As the Chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a group that aims to change political districts believed to be gerry-mandered by Republicans, Holder believes this is the time to invoke the type of electoral reforms that will ultimately protect your vote this year and in the future.
In an interview with TIME magazine, he talked about the specific changes he’d like to see made to protect our electoral process as the virus continues to affect the country.
Holder, who served under President Obama from 2009 to 2015, noted that canceling in-person voting would be a detriment to minority communities, who have always used polling places.
“Certain communities and communities of color primarily rely on in-person voting,” said Holder. We have to provide safe and healthy polling places so that the poll workers and those who want to cast a ballot in person have opportunities to do that while they’re protecting themselves.”
But just because Holder supports voting in-person, does not mean he thinks it should be done in a way that jeopardizes people’s health in the midst of the coronavirus crisis. Holder also said that with social distancing measures being taken there must be creative solutions to casting a ballot so that people don’t miss opportunities to vote and that means being able to do that without necessarily having to be at the polls right now.
“There has to be a sea change in our thinking there. Allow people to access their primary American right by voting at home,” Holder explained. “It’s not as if this is an untried concept. Oregon has been doing this for years. But we have to make sure that we’re being sensitive to the needs of poor communities and communities of color by doing things like having prepaid postage on envelopes.”
Two weeks ago, Wisconsin held their primary despite guidelines for social distancing being strongly encouraged by public health officials. Holder expressed his concern saying that he hopes a similar outcome will not take place during the 2020 general election.
“In spite of the fact that public health experts have told everyone to practice social distancing to help fight the spread of COVID-19, the Wisconsin legislature, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court are forcing too many people to wait in lines to vote...the pictures coming out of Wisconsin are troubling,” Holder said in a statement.
He told TIME that the reaction to coronavirus presents an opportunity to change the nationwide approach to voting and how it can be made more accessible.
“Coronavirus gives us an opportunity to revamp our electoral system so that it permanently becomes more inclusive and becomes easier for the American people to access,” he explained. “It would be foolhardy to take these pro-democracy measures off the table after we get on the other side of the virus.”
Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images