[If you’ve seen a recent article on this subject from the outlet, you should include the article’s title and the date it was published at the beginning of your letter. ]
The 2020 election will be the most consequential in my lifetime, and we need to make sure that every vote in [insert state name] is counted. Between the avalanche of election disinformation on social media, states shutting down polling places, and the president openly attacking absentee voting, our democracy is fundamentally at risk.
In [insert city or state], we value democracy, which is why our elected officials should be making it easier for people to vote, not harder. Voter suppression is real. I know because I’ve experienced it firsthand. Briefly write about a time where you or someone else felt the impacts of voter suppression. Here are some examples:
- Long Lines: “In 2018, I showed up at my polling station and realized I would have to spend hours in line waiting in order to vote.”
- Time Constraints: “I wanted to exercise my right to vote, but I wasn’t able to because I didn’t have paid time off from work.”
- Ballot Rejections: “I tried to vote absentee, but I made a mistake on my ballot due to confusing instructions and my vote wasn’t counted.”
- Purged from Voter Rolls: “I showed up to vote on election day and was informed that my name had been removed from the voter rolls without my knowledge, jeopardizing my ability to vote.”
- ID Laws: “I wanted to register to vote, but wasn’t able to because I didn’t have the required ID and couldn’t afford to get one.”
- Disinformation: “I got confused about voting guidelines because bad actors spread false and misleading information about voting online.”
- [ADD YOUR OWN EXAMPLE of Specific Voter Suppressions Laws/Decisions in Your State]: That might sound like: “Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s decision to severely restrict the use of ballot drop boxes means places like Harris County with millions of residents will only have one location to drop off ballots. This is voter suppression, plain and simple.”
In order to justify voter suppression policies that disproportionately impact Black and Latinx communities and people with low -incomes, politicians continue to spread lies about ‘voter fraud.’ These false claims do nothing to protect the integrity of our elections, but they do hurt our democracy.
That’s why we need to call out any attempts to suppress [name of state’s constituents, e.g. Minnesotans’] votes. This election night will likely be unlike any other, and may last many days or even weeks. We need to stand together to demand every vote is counted — especially if bad actors attempt to call election results prematurely and prevent [name of state’s constituents, e.g. Minnesotans’] who voted by mail from having their ballots counted.
[Your Name, City/Town]
- Look up the name of your target paper or news outlet if you don’t already know it. And remember, smaller outlets are more likely to publish your letter than larger ones!
- Once you’ve identified the outlet you want to write to, look at its guidelines for submitting letters to the editor. Some outlets use online forms, while others will ask you to submit your letter to a specific email address. For example, here are the guidelines for the Austin American-Statesman and the Bangor Daily News.
- Figure out how long your letter is allowed to be. Many outlets cap the number of words per letter anywhere from 150–250 words, so you should keep that limit in mind as you’re writing.
- Now it’s time to start drafting your letter! You can use the template we’ve provided and briefly add in your own experiences and perspective, or you can draft your letter from scratch—just remember to keep an eye on the word count.
- Submit your letter and wait to see if it’s published!
- Strict voter ID laws and onerous voter registration processes. Requiring voters to present government-issued photo ID cards makes voting inaccessible for people who cannot afford to pay for the ID itself or other documents that are needed to obtain an ID. Document requirements can also pose barriers to voter registration, as some states require people to show documents that they wouldn’t ordinarily have on hand when registering to vote (e.g. birth certificates or passports). A number of states also prevent people from voting by establishing an arbitrary registration deadline weeks before many people are even thinking about the election. Ten states, including Texas and Arkansas, do not have online voter registration processes in place, which would help make registration more accessible. [ACLU, 2/3/20] [National Conference of State Legislatures, accessed 10/8/20]
- Purging voter rolls. States often purge voter rolls without legitimate reasons or based on inaccurate data, leading to the disenfranchisement of massive numbers of voters. Many people only learn they’ve been purged from the rolls when they show up to vote on election day, preventing them from rectifying the issue ahead of time. Those who vote by mail rarely have the opportunity to rectify their removal from voter rolls and cast a ballot. [ACLU, 2/3/20] [Brennan Center for Justice, 5/21/20]
- Long lines for voting. Insufficient numbers of polling locations, voting machines/equipment, and poll workers can lead to long lines when people show up to vote, preventing those who cannot wait in line from exercising their rights. Research has shown that Black and Latinx voters face longer lines on Election Day than white voters. [Brennan Center for Justice, accessed 10/8/20]
- Rejecting mail-in ballots. Every year, states reject hundreds or even thousands of mail-in ballots for reasons ranging from late postmarks to missing signatures to “naked ballots” (or ballots not sent in both official election envelopes). That’s because many states have confusing absentee voting processes that mean simple mistakes can result in a vote not being counted. Research has shown that absentee ballot rejections in 2016 “fell along racial, ethnic, and wealth divides.” [USA Today, updated 10/9/20]
- Disinformation campaigns. The 2016 election demonstrated the impact that online disinformation can have on elections. Bad actors, both domestic and foreign, work to spread false information about elections in order to trick people out of voting or discourage them from participating in elections. Voting rights experts have said the risk of voter disenfranchisement due to disinformation was “perhaps higher in 2020 than ever before.” [Brennan Center for Justice, 9/2/20]