During the traditional dog days of summer, many people are more apt to relax on vacation than to think about whom they plan to vote for in the upcoming elections, never mind how they can help ensure voters’ rights at the polling place.
What was custom just a few years ago, however, has been tossed on the scrap heap, as early voting and the expanded use of absentee ballots have shifted voting habits.
New census data led to a redrawing of political districts, upending the 2022 election season.
In June, which has become the primary month in New York state in the past few years, there were gubernatorial and Assembly primaries. But because there was a brouhaha over how the congressional and state senatorial districts were drawn, the legal wrangling pushed those primaries to Aug. 23.
With those votes approaching and the general election in November, it’s not just voting that is important, but protecting the right to vote as well.
In this country, “one person, one vote” truly means that when a ballot is filled out, that vote will count. Whether it’s an election with a razor-thin margin between candidates or an overwhelming victory, we take for granted that everyone’s vote counted.
From local elections such as the 2021 race for Nassau County executive — in which Bruce Blakeman’s margin of victory over Laura Curran was 2,150 votes — to George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore in the presidential election 21 years earlier that was decided by 537 votes in Florida, every vote is consequential. And protecting that vote is essential.
In order to safeguard the act of voting, we need election protectors. What are they? According to the Election Protection coalition organized by the political watchdog group Common Cause, an election protector is a trained, nonpartisan onsite volunteer who can explain voting rules and help troubleshoot issues with voting. Election Protection is an effort to overcome what Common Cause describes as the “outdated infrastructure, rampant misinformation and needless obstacles to the ballot box.”
Common Cause dates back to the Nixon administration, when it was founded by John Gardner, a Republican cabinet member in President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration. The initial push of Common Cause was to end the Vietnam War and lower the voting age in the U.S. from 21 to 18.
Today, the nationwide coalition aims to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to vote, and that that vote counts. There are more than 300 local, state and national Election Protection partners, according to Common Cause.
Whoa, you may think. Is this just another way for one political party to gain an advantage over the other? No. Signing on and learning how to be an election protector simply means you play a vital role in the most critical cog that makes this nation’s democracy work: voting.
No matter which political party you are affiliated with, and no matter which political philosophy you are aligned with, you, as a citizen of this country, have the civic responsibility to take part in its government.
When you vote in an election, you exercise your right to give voice to your opinions. An election protector helps safeguard that right, which in turn safeguards our democracy.
“The most important political office is that of the private citizen,” Louis Brandeis wrote over a century ago, early in a legal career that eventually took him to the U.S. Supreme Court.
By becoming an election protector, you will serve a dual purpose: protecting the right of people to vote, while breathing life into Brandeis’s words.
You can become an election protector by signing up at www.ProtectTheVote.net.
For more information on elections and voting, go to the Nassau County Board of Elections website, www.NassauCountyNY.gov, or call (516) 571-8683. You can also reach the League of Women Voters of Nassau County at www.LWVofNassauCounty.org, or by calling (516) 431-1628.