With just a week until November 3, we’re in the heart of election season. If you’re like me, you’re inundated with letters, texts, emails, TV ads and news reports about the election everywhere you turn.
Although this can feel never-ending, it’s also inspiring—Americans are breaking early voting records around the country. Despite the pandemic, there’s an energy and fervor about exercising one’s right to vote which shows that people are eager to make their voices heard. After all, fair elections are the foundation of our democracy.
It is both our right and our responsibility to vote, but our job doesn’t stop once we cast our own ballot. We also need to make sure everyone has a chance to vote and all votes are counted.
You might be wondering what free and fair elections have to do with ocean conservation. The ocean is an inherently public space, not owned by anyone. Its resources are public resources, regulated by state and federal governments. In the United States, we rely on a functioning democracy to advance ocean conservation and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of those public resources. And in the United States, free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy. So as advocates for a clean and healthy ocean for all, we have a role to play in supporting democracy.
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Around the country, election officials, poll workers and volunteers are working tirelessly to make sure we can cast our ballots. So, what can each of us do?
Vote. This is the most important thing—it’s our duty and right as members of civil society to vote. If you’ve submitted your ballot already, thank you. If you’re voting this week, I encourage you to join me and figure out your voting plan. There are many online resources to look up your polling place and see what’s on your ballot.
Know your rights. The voting process can be confusing, and educating yourself and others can ensure your vote is counted. If you’re in line to vote on November 3 when the polls close, stay in line! You still have the right to vote. If you make a mistake when filling out your ballot, you can ask for a new one. We cannot protect our ocean—and our planet—without ensuring that our democracy works for everyone, especially communities of color who carry the heaviest burden of environmental degradation and have historically had their vote suppressed. If anyone is trying to keep you or anyone else from voting, report it to poll workers or file a complaint with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division (you can call 800-253-3931, email [email protected] or submit an online form).
Be patient. This election season has been long and many of us are ready for it to be over. But declaring results before all the votes are counted only leads to confusion and frustration. No one in the media, online or in either political party should rush to make any announcements about who won the election until we count all votes, including those from military overseas, Americans abroad and others who have voted by mail.
Stand united. I am hopeful for an orderly election with a clear outcome. The prospect of a contested election might seem daunting, but it’s also a clear illustration of our democracy in action. Every voter deserves to have their voice heard, and it’s all of our responsibility to ensure that happens. Together, we can hold our government and media accountable for a free and fair election process. Our voices united cannot be ignored.
In order to have full trust in the election results and move forward as a nation, we must make sure our votes are cast and counted. Together, we can make sure that happens.