Today is Election Day, and we hope everyone gets out there and votes! Voting is one of the fundamental rights we have as Americans. It is the voter’s actions — the casting of a ballot — that defines our country as one that not only allows, but encourages, citizen participation in government decision making. At the Brennan Center, we believe that every eligible voter should be able to cast a ballot that counts. We have been concerned by the new barriers to voting that many states contemplated during the 2011 legislative session. Luckily, national media, political spokespersons, and engaged citizens who recognize the centrality of voting rights to our nation’s health have responded.
Last week, Colorado voters demonstrated how important it is to resist unnecessary barriers to the ballot box. Just weeks before Colorado’s all-mail election, Secretary of State Scott Gessler ordered county clerks not to send ballots to eligible and registered voters who, for whatever reason, did not vote in the 2010 general election. When Denver County refused to follow this suppressive directive, Secretary Gessler sued the county’s election director. After a Denver District Court refused to enforce Secretary Gessler’s order, nine counties, including Pueblo County, sent ballots to active and so-called “inactive” voters alike. This action by committed election officials meant that thousands of registered voters, who otherwise would have not received a ballot, were able to participate in the election. In fact, “inactive” voters comprised nearly 9 percent of all votes cast in Pueblo County.
The right to vote is a cornerstone of our democracy. We urge New Yorkers and all voters who have elections today to make sure you have correct and complete information about your right to participate in the political process. And follow Colorado voters’ lead, and vote! For information about your state, visit Vote 411, CanIvote.org, Election Protection, or your state’s elections website.