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Voting by mail is good for our health, our democracy, and our soul.

At this time, our community is being rocked by the health and financial fallout of a global pandemic as well as the civil and moral reckoning of another heinous example of systemic oppression and racism.

We could see both at the same time at DeLand’s citizen-led protest last Tuesday, noteworthy for both the hundreds of people who peacefully attended, as well as the face masks worn by the vast majority of the attendees.

Protests, though, get us only so far. Sure, raising awareness is critical to win hearts and minds. But, awareness alone doesn’t change racist policies; if it did, then our country’s founders — who were very aware of the moral hazards of enslaving and murdering African and indigenous people — would have abolished slavery when drafting the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

What does change policies, though, is voting — and, specifically this year, voting-by-mail.

Voting-by-mail is good for our health. COVID-19 is deadlier, more contagious, and less treatable than the flu. Yet, despite a nearly countrywide lockdown for over two months, it has killed more than 100,000 Americans, largely centered in high-density areas where people are in close proximity for extended periods of time — kind of like those packed lines on Election Day in Florida. And, the risk isn’t just to the voters; it is also to our often-older, short-staffed poll workers who endure 12- to 16-hour days in a small indoor space.

And, if we are hit with another peak of COVID-19 again this fall, how much more danger will there be when lines get even longer because of poll workers deciding to stay home for their own safety? All of that is avoidable if we simply vote-by-mail.

Voting-by-mail is good for our democracy. Our Constitution enshrines our right to vote, and gives us that responsibility in order to hold our government and elected officials accountable for the work they are doing on our behalf. If, however, we don’t exercise that right, then we abdicate our responsibility — giving more room for the privileged and powerful to make government work for them instead of us.

The good news is that people who enroll in vote-by-mail turn out at a rate that is about 30 percent higher than their peers. Imagine how more representative — more accountable — our government would be if turnout were 30 percent higher.

Voting-by-mail is good for our soul. As we learned from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

If we believe that injustices are being perpetuated because of policies of our government, then we have not only a civic, but a moral, responsibility to vote in the election and not sit on the sidelines.

Enroll in vote-by-mail at www.volusiaelections.org. You’ll get your ballot approximately 30 days before each election. Voting-by-mail is safe, but if you want to be certain that your vote is counted, then simply drop your ballot off to the Supervisor of Elections Office in-person and, while you’re there, update your signature to be sure that it matches. They’ll even give you a sticker.

— Winchell, of DeLeon Springs, is the associate director of community engagement at Stetson University and founder and executive director of Democracy Strategies. He can be reached at kwinchell@gmail.com.


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