A person with a blue face mask inserts a ballot inside a ballot box.
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The Political Violence Shrouding the Midterms

Today is Election Day. Regardless of who wins in the 2022 midterms, it’s likely that today and the upcoming weeks will be tense. It’s the first election since the Jan. 6 insurrection, when a violent mob riled up by former President Trump stormed the Capitol to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. 

In the last few years, Americans have increasingly supported political violence, specifically against the government, with nearly a quarter now believing it is sometimes justified (NPR). So far, this election season has seen civilian groups, sometimes armed, monitoring ballot drop-off boxes over unfounded suspicions of voter fraud spurred on by 2020 election deniers (USA Today). Election workers are stepping down from their position over threats. There have been physical attacks on candidates and legislators, including the recent attack on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband in their San Francisco home (NPR).

A week before the midterms, President Biden spoke on political violence and voter intimidation, saying they’re “trying to succeed where they failed in 2020, to suppress the right of voters, and subvert the electoral system itself. That means denying the right to vote, and deciding whether your vote even courts. Instead of waiting until the election is over, they are starting well before it. They are starting now” (Whitehouse.gov). He continued, “we don’t settle our differences with a riot, or a mob, or a bullet, or a hammer. “We settle them peaceably at the ballot box.”

TAKE ACTION

• Go through the Safety Checklist for November and make your plan. You can go to File > Make a Copy to create your own editable version without bothering the organizers that created it!

For voters
• Find your polling place and see if your state requires an ID to vote and which types are acceptable.

• If you need transportation, Rideshare2Vote provides free roundtrip rides. Lyft is offering 50% off rides on Election Day.

• You can bring a cheat sheet to the polls. Know which candidates or measures are on your ballot and bring/make a reference to help you when voting.

• Know your voting rights. If you need help at the polls, you can call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Activists and legislators from both sides fear what could happen this election and are preparing for what’s to come. And although a small fraction of people actually supports violence, it doesn’t take much to incite it (Brookings). It’s important to note how this violence is likely to affect marginalized communities most, especially in regions where there is mistrust of the integrity of the midterms and election deniers are on the ballot (USA Today). If you have the privilege of not being directly impacted by election violence, it is your responsibility to protect the well-being of the low-wage workers that work Election Day, the Black and Latine voters who are most likely to be targeted by racial violence from the right, and the people that rely on public transportation which protests could disrupt. 

This isn’t meant to scaremonger. I want us all to prepare how best to respond if you are voting today and how to navigate the post-election weeks. The small glimmer of hope I see during this cycle is that we have seen the violent fallout from the previous election, and we have had time to prepare a response. So, let’s do so. Planning for the election is not just exercising your right to vote (if you have one) or your way to contribute if you can’t vote. While it shouldn’t be the default response when participating in our democratic process, it must be today. 

The first part of preparing is to prepare yourself. This is not to center your needs above those more marginalized. This is about ensuring you are resourced enough to do the most. 

If you plan on voting in person today, make sure you have everything you need before heading to the polls. This means ensuring that your voter registration is active and knowing your assigned polling location, which you can quickly verify on Vote.org. Twenty states and Washington, D.C. allow Election Day registrations, including Virginia, Michigan, and Nevada; check their specific requirements (NCSL). 

Review your state’s voter I.D. laws and what, if anything, you need to bring to the polls. Even if you don’t have the acceptable forms of I.D. with you but are an eligible registered voter, you can ask for a provisional ballot. Know who and what’s on your ballot ahead of time. If necessary, you can bring a cheat sheet for reference. Prepare for long lines by bringing snacks. While states like Georgia have banned the distribution of food and drinks to voters waiting in line (NBC News), groups like Pizza to the Polls deliver free food to polling locations with reported long lines. Lastly, know your rights. Elections are meant to be accessible and free of discrimination and intimidation. If you need help at the polls or get turned away, call the Election Protection Hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

Get clarity on what it looks like to protect your community post-election. The checklist offers ways to help from a wide range of perspectives. You can organize logistically by providing food, money, and other tangibles to those worried about leaving their homes in the coming weeks. You can also get prepared to participate in or defend any protests that may unfold in the weeks ahead. The checklist includes links to upcoming trainings and virtual gatherings you can join – and I recommend subscribing for future events that may be scheduled as things unfold.

If anything, this plan will bring you and your community some ease and relief as the weeks unfold. But at most, it can save lives. Whatever you do, an extra day of planning won’t hurt. In addition, this plan can be a helpful template for other issues that may arise outside of the election, like an environmental disaster or further political unrest. Regardless of our political beliefs, we must remember that we are all in this together. Political violence in elections serves no one. Commit to serving your community with love and solidarity.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

• Political violence is on the rise. 

• State and local governments, organizers, and activists are worried about violence on Election Day and over the coming weeks.

• Creating an election plan helps protect you and the most vulnerable people in our communities. 

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