Seize your power — vote early
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Today is National Early Vote Day, when we celebrate the power of our collective action and encourage people to make their voices heard by early voting. In 2020, it is critical that we recognize how voting is fundamental to the health of our democracy and the fight for racial justice — particularly as we face a new wave of efforts to disenfranchise voters of color.

Efforts to undermine and discourage participation in our elections are well underway. In Georgia, state leaders’ failure to invest in voting infrastructure in Black and Brown communities forced some voters to wait for 11 hours to cast their ballots during early voting. In Florida, the governor and state legislature have subverted the will of the voters and are requiring people with felonies in their past to pay all fines and fines, effectively barring people with felony convictions and low incomes from voting. And in Virginia, a small group of Trump supporters attempted to disrupt early voting at a polling location on the first day of early voting. These attempts to make voting more difficult and onerous betray a disturbing, persistent truth: the people in power fear the people’s power.

This same fear has driven efforts throughout American history to discourage voting and disenfranchise voters of color. During the Jim Crow era, they used poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, they use Jim Crow’s modern-day antecedents, like reducing polling locations in Black and Brown communities, imposing Voter ID requirements, and disenfranchising people with felonies in their past; these policies, which aim to achieve the same racist ends, should be treated with the revulsion that we typically reserve for Jim Crow era discrimination.

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We know that when we use our collective power, we can get results. This year, in the wake of the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, people in every corner of the country took to the streets to demand an end to police violence and systemic racism. Organizations like Advancement Project National Office worked to uplift the voices and experiences of people of color who are suffering from state violence; dedicated organizers on the ground translated this surge of energy and awareness into results — from pushing cities and school boards to reexamine their relationships with police departments to getting jails and prisons to release people from their facilities to ensure that justice-involved individuals are free and safe from COVID-19.

National Early Voting Day offers another opportunity to build on this work. To win racial justice and dismantle the structures that stand in the way of equality, we must use every ounce of our power — including our right to vote.

While we cannot overcome barriers to racial justice and equality through voting alone, we cannot afford to ignore this strong tool to help us dismantle these systems — particularly at a time when so many of the institutions, policies, and state actors that discriminate against and disenfranchise Black and Brown communities are on the ballot.

My message to the Black, Brown, Native American and Asian American voters who will make up one-third of all eligible voters this Election Day: seize your power, vote early! Go to vote.org to find out more about how to vote early in your state and find your nearest polling place.

There is a direct line between what we are fighting for in the streets and the choices in our ballots. Do not miss this opportunity to make an impact. And whatever happens on Election Day, we will continue our fight for racial justice and equality; we hope you will join us.

Jorge Luis Vasquez, Jr. is a Harvard IOP Fellow and the Director of Advancement Project National Office’s Power and Democracy Program. Follow his work @JorgeVasquezNYC