Don’t Let the Excitement or the Votes be Suppressed

The Caribbean-American community—specifically the Jamaican-American community—is highly excited and motivated by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential nominee for the November 3 general election.

Biden’s once uninspiring campaign, as some Caribbean American voters viewed it, has gotten a jolt of excitement with the selection of Harris, whose father is Jamaican. People who usually display little interest in voting in U.S. elections are ready to roll. This excitement is seen not only among Jamaicans—some who have been jovially posting White House menus with Jamaican dishes like jerked pork and oxtail on social media—but throughout the larger Caribbean American and African American populations in Florida and other states.

Although there isn’t absolute consensus, the Harris pick within a few days have further boosted Biden’s chance of winning the presidential election. This is especially so in states with combined large Caribbean and African American voters, like Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Georgia, California, Maryland, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, South Carolina and Pennsylvania.

Harris’ unique ethnicity encompasses three groups, Caribbean American, African American and South Asian American. Her Indian ancestry through her late mother also endears her to the large, but often little mentioned, Indian American voting bloc in America.

Voter Turnout is Key

Despite the excitement of having Kamala Harris on the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket, the election won’t be won and the increasing threat of Americans being subject to dictatorial rule won’t be overcome unless people turn out to vote in droves.

As the election draws near, there are signs of that those against changing the status quo…those intent on preventing the election of the Biden/Harris ticket, are blatantly making attempts to suppress the votes of Democrats.

With the existing fear of contracting the coronavirus, it’s anticipated voters will be reluctant to risk contracting the virus by voting in person in November. There’s evidence, certainly seen in Florida’s recently concluded primary elections, that more voters are choosing the option to request their ballots from respective supervisor of elections (SOE) offices and returning the completed ballots by mail.  

The prospect of substantial mail-in voting has been met with opposition from the Trump administration, which has touted the unsubstantiated claim that it will result in massive voter fraud. What’s worse is that by weakening the United States Postal Office (USPS) it will become incapable of coping with processing the anticipated high volume of mail-in ballots—therefore actively suppressing votes.

Following public outcry regarding the removal of drop-off mailboxes, mechanical sorting machines from post offices around the country, the firing of senior postal workers, and canceled overtime for postal workers, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has been forced to reverse course, at least until after the November elections. The measures were seen as a blatant attempt to frustrate and suppress mail-in votes.

With deliberate obstacles being placed in the way of voters, we appeal to every voter to not let their excitement and motivation to vote be deterred, and instead plan carefully.

This plan must involve voting early by mail or in person. Most states are expected to have ballots for the 2020 elections ready to be mailed by mid-September. Those planning to vote by mail should, therefore, begin making requests for their ballots.  When the ballots are received, they should be completed, signed, and placed securely in the envelopes provided by the SOE. Where possible, the ballots should be returned directly to the SOE offices. If that isn’t possible, the ballots can be held until early voting begins, which should be around mid-October, and dropped off at an early voting site, or dropped off at the designated polling site on November 3.

If voters have no other option but to mail in the ballot, this should be not later than mid-October, to prevent expected bottlenecks and delays at post offices which could delay the ballot being submitted by Election Day.

Voters should be aware they are able to track if their mail-in ballot is received and counted on respective SOE websites. After dropping off or mailing their ballot they can check with the SOE to make sure there are no problems with their votes.

Voters who are skeptical of mail-in voting are advised to take advantage of early in-person voting which begins in most states by mid-October. Long lines, and risk of COVID-19 can be avoided by voting between mid-morning and mid-afternoon and wearing masks.

By careful planning, by people educating and helping other voters, the excitement currently felt with Kamala Harris on the Democrats presidential ticket, can be channeled in a victory on Nov 3.

Too many people paid too high a sacrifice to let obvious efforts to suppress the vote succeed. The key is to vote heavily and early whether by mail or in person. If this is done successfully the results of this election should be known on November 4, 2020.

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