‘No-contact’ vote by mail event set for Saturday

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

As much as candidates have been turning to social media to reach voters, the traditional grass-roots approach might become effective again.

Organize Together 2020, a group that’s advocating vote-by-mail, is out to prove that grass-roots campaigning is making a comeback. They hope to prove that this Saturday when it holds a “no-contact” information session at the Perry Library. The library is located at 2817 South Adams Street.

The grass-roots approach is becoming important again because  voters have lost trust in political leaders, said Tommy Knight, a field organizer for Organizing Together 2020.

“Today there has been an attack on our trust to one another and our trust in how our system operates and how everyone can access the ballot, how everyone can access equality and how everyone can access equal justice,” Knight said. “Because that foundation of trust has been attacked and in some cases almost compromised, grass roots movements like what we’ve been doing have been revitalized.

Mark Hodges (right), seen in this photo with former president Bill Clinton, is regional organizing director for Organizing Together 2020. The organization holds a vote-by-mail awareness event Saturday in the parking lot at Perry Library.

“We have to rebuild that trust; rebuild that community. We are doing that by volunteers and people like you and me. We are reaching out and helping each other access the means by which we can reach for justice (and) equality at the ballot box.”

Saturday’s event begins at 10 a.m. and is expected to run until early afternoon. During that time strict enforcement of the CDC guidelines will be in place. In particular, gloves and masks will be used and anything that participants touch will be sanitized.

The idea of providing voters information on voting by mail is the result of uncertainty created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Knight said. He added that it’s the most secure way of voting, something that Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley has been advocating.

Earley defended the vote-by-mail option in a recent interview, with statistics that show the effectiveness of the process. More than 27,000 ballots were cast by mail in 2018, with 27 of those being rejected because of a signature mismatch and there were 28 rejections because there was no signature, he said.

He also said that anyone who doesn’t want to mail their ballots could get it in time to drop into a receptacle that will be at precincts when early voting begins Aug. 3 for the Aug. 18 primary. Early voting for the  general election on Nov. 3 will begin on Oct. 19.

The organization is putting its effort into informing voters in battleground states such as Florida. It is part of a bigger movement across the country, said Mark Hodges, a regional organizing director for Organizing Together 2020.

Ultimately the group wants to remove Donald Trump from office, he said. The organization is part of a national coalition of activist groups that includes Latino Victory, a political advocacy group in Florida.

“We want to remove as many barriers to voting as possible and one of those is certainly having to wait in line for hours and hours on a workday,” Hodges said. “I understand the argument that it’s one more thing they have to do but at the same time I think with so many organizations understanding the needs of these communities that’s why we have an aggressive vote by mail outreach program. We make sure we follow through with people to make sure they have everything they need.”

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