By the time this column is published, what is being largely referred to as the most important Election Day in U.S. history will have come and gone. Whether the results of this election will be clear is still a mystery as of this writing. But here’s what’s important: A week prior to the election, early voters accounted for 48 percent of the total votes counted in the 2016 election, according to the United States Election Project, a source for information about the electoral system.
Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida, runs the United States Election Project database. McDonald told National Public Radio, “We continue to pile on the votes at a record pace. We’ve already passed any raw number of early votes in any prior election in U.S. history.” These numbers have shown that many efforts to suppress votes haven’t worked, and proven wrong that voting in a pandemic would be nearly impossible.
The opportunity to vote for candidates and ballot measures in 2020 is now over, and hopefully the results reflect the will of the people rather than perpetuate a compromised democracy. Regardless, we can remain hopeful that our vote matters.
This year has been unimaginable. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our country — 9 million cases and counting, and more than 230,000 deaths — and our economy. We still face unprecedented job losses and looming evictions. In a time when access to health care couldn’t be more important, the United States Supreme Court could reconsider the Affordable Care Act, eliminating coverage for millions of Americans. Dealing with one of these crises in any given year is overwhelming, but all at once? Again… unimaginable.
All the while, multiple racist actions have sparked a global Black Lives Matter movement for justice that The New York Times says may be the largest social movement in history.
All of these events have motivated voters. Our votes matter and were needed this year like never before. But it isn’t all we need.
The day after the election, we need hope — no matter who wins — to fuel the fire within us that wards off complacency. Civic engagement is not something that should happen only during election years. We need to hold our elected officials accountable regardless of party affiliation.
If we have learned anything over the last four years, it is that blind partisan loyalty is dangerous.
The trauma from the pandemic, terrorism, natural disasters, and political and racial unrest this year has added much undue stress; it’s cost us peace. But still, hope has motivated us, and it will motivate us as we move forward.
This is an important moment in history; we are in it, and history will remember how we handled it.
Though the election may (or may not) be over, the crises in our country continue. While turning out to the polls was/is important, how we continue to organize after the election has more weight.
No matter how you voted in this election, and whatever the results, actions speak louder than rhetoric. Do not lose your power of agency, and do not be afraid of hope, even in the face of hopelessness.