Anticipating “An Election Like No Other,” panelists, expert in voting rights and marginalized communities, gave a talk on the subject to a University of California Homecoming audience on Oct. 17 in a ZOOM webinar. Speakers included: UCB Chancellor’s Professor of Law Bertrall Ross; Aimee Allison, founder and President of She the People (an organization that seeks to empower women of color); James Schwab Secretary of State Chief Deputy; and Dr. John Swartzberg, UCB Health and Wellness Editor. Dr. Swartzberg assured attendees that our democracy can survive, in spite of serious concerns to the contrary. Professor Dan Lindheim served as moderator.
Ross sought to temper voters’ fears of voting-by-mail, disinformation spread through social media, and potentially disruptive messaging by the Trump administration, while acknowledging the substantive concerns. Allison, having participated in ground game campaigns, e.g., with Stacey Abrams in Georgia, encouraged women of color by identifying them as the fastest growing group in the electorate, but also warning of their being targets of voter intimidation.
Swartzberg identified three major weaknesses of the US effort to combat COVID-19 and its impact on the election: 1) ineffectiveness of public policy measures to reduce virus spread — like use of masks and social distancing – due to citizens’ lack of “cultural empathy”, 2) shortage of medical resources due to under funding of government agencies and lack of cooperation within the hyper-competitive healthcare industry, and 3) ineffectual messaging of conflicting and, therefore, counterproductive advice from President Trump and medical experts.
In contrast, Schwab highlighted more positive aspects of how Americans have responded – including a publicity “assist” from LeBron James — the Herculean state efforts by Secretary of State and Registrar of Voters offices to mail every voter a ballot, organize COVID-19 protected Super Consolidated Voter Centers to replace old polling places wherever needed, recruit new poll workers to substitute for COVID-19 vulnerable poll workers and revamp collection, validation and ballot counting procedures
given the expected voting tsunami.
Questions following the presentations indicated some remaining unease among attendees concerning: 1) in-person voting as potential super-spreaders of COVID-19 (Swartzberg asserted that Super-Consolidated Voter Centers will be well equipped and staffed to prevent virus transmission.), 2) whether the legitimacy of the Presidential election could be contested (Ross explained possible scenarios that have been and are being analyzed by legal experts for preventive and remedial strategies.) and 3) turnout of Black women necessary for Biden/Harris to prevail (Allison estimates that Democrats will win if over 60% of Black women vote in battleground states.).
Given the helpful insights revealed at this Homecoming panel event, all that remains for us to do besides voting ourselves is to help get out the vote.
–Ruby MacDonald, President LWVBAE
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