Saturday, October 29, 2016

An Election Week request

I'd like to start off with an apology: this post is going to be a bit off-topic. It's not directly related to ecofrugality, though it is about avoiding waste. Specifically, in this case, the waste of a vote.

I usually try to avoid posting about anything overtly political on this blog, because I know politics is a topic that divides people, and I'd like us to be able to focus on the common areas that interest all of us: saving money and living green. But in this case, something is going on that's so important I feel I have to speak out through any forum I have available, and this is the best one I have.

As you probably know, Donald Trump has been encouraging his followers to go out and monitor polling places for signs of voter fraud. Some of them have responded by saying, in so many words, that they intend to use racial profiling to spot voters they consider illegitimate and challenge them. The Christian Science Monitor quotes one of them, Steve Webb of Ohio, as saying he plans to look for "Mexicans. Syrians. People who can't speak American. I'm going to go right up behind them...I'm not going to do anything illegal. I'm going to make them a little bit nervous."

What Mr. Webb apparently doesn't realize is that what he is proposing to do actually is illegal. It's voter intimidation, and there are laws against it. As the website of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains, it is against federal law to "intimidate, threaten, [or] coerce...any other person" in order to stop that person from voting, or from voting in a particular way. If anyone does this to you, you can report it to the Department of Justice or to any local official. Election Protection even has a hotline (1-866-OUR-VOTE) that you can call on the spot to respond to this kind of behavior.

The problem is, the average voter may not know this. So if someone like Mr. Webb "goes right up behind them" in a threatening way, they might not know how to respond. If they become "nervous" enough to flee without casting their ballots, it will be a victory for the lawbreakers and a loss for democracy.

So what can we do prevent it? So far, the best thing I can think of is to make sure this information about what voter intimidation is and how to respond gets out to as many people as possible. And that's where I'd like to ask for your help.

This PDF contains all the information from the ACLU site in a printable form. I'm asking you to print out copies of this document and post them in whatever public places you can think of in your town - community bulletin boards, utility poles (if that's legal where you live), or anywhere else that people will see them as they pass by. Ideally, they should be posted as close as possible to the places where people vote, so people will see them on their way to the polls and will be aware of the issue. Maybe not that many people will read the notice, and maybe not many will learn anything from it they didn't already know. But if even one person who sees it is encouraged to stand up for their right to vote, that will be a victory.

Let me be clear: My goal here is not to support or oppose any particular candidate. I just want to make sure that everyone who's legally allowed to vote is able to. And I believe that all of you, people who care enough about the world to read this blog, would agree with that goal. No matter which candidate you support, surely you would want to see that candidate elected fairly and legitimately, not through vote suppression.

I'm also encouraging you to pass this information on to anyone else you know who you think would share this goal. Send e-mails to friends, put it on Facebook, tweet the link, or whatever you think will help to get the word out. This, too, is a request I wouldn't normally make...but as I said before, I consider this election a special case.

Thank you for reading. Tomorrow we'll return to our regularly scheduled program of posts about DIY, thrift shops, and local produce.
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