Opinion: Voting rights is timely vaccine for American democracy

October 12, 2021 Atlanta: Kenneth French leaves the Buckhead Library located at 269 Buckhead Avenue NE in Atlanta after voting on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 as early voting locations opened across Georgia on Tuesday, kicking off a three-week sprint before election day on Nov. 2. Featuring the race for mayor of Atlanta and local contests statewide, the elections will be the first time many voters go to the polls since the General Assembly passed Georgia’s new voting law in March. Voters will decide on mayors, city councils, school boards and tax referendums. Early voting locations, hours and sample ballots are available online on the state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Voters must cast ballots in the counties where they’re registered. Changes to voting laws affect early voting in several ways. The minimum early voting hours are set at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and counties can offer up to 12 hours of daily early voting, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In previous elections, early voting times were required “during normal business hours,” but those hours weren’t defined. Early voting will also be offered on two Saturdays, and local election offices have the option of providing voting hours on Sundays as well. Before the law, one Saturday of early voting was required. Early voting is available from Oct. 12 to Oct. 29. Absentee ballots are also being mailed to voters this week. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

caption arrowCaption
October 12, 2021 Atlanta: Kenneth French leaves the Buckhead Library located at 269 Buckhead Avenue NE in Atlanta after voting on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 as early voting locations opened across Georgia on Tuesday, kicking off a three-week sprint before election day on Nov. 2. Featuring the race for mayor of Atlanta and local contests statewide, the elections will be the first time many voters go to the polls since the General Assembly passed Georgia’s new voting law in March. Voters will decide on mayors, city councils, school boards and tax referendums. Early voting locations, hours and sample ballots are available online on the state’s My Voter Page at www.mvp.sos.ga.gov. Voters must cast ballots in the counties where they’re registered. Changes to voting laws affect early voting in several ways. The minimum early voting hours are set at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and counties can offer up to 12 hours of daily early voting, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In previous elections, early voting times were required “during normal business hours,” but those hours weren’t defined. Early voting will also be offered on two Saturdays, and local election offices have the option of providing voting hours on Sundays as well. Before the law, one Saturday of early voting was required. Early voting is available from Oct. 12 to Oct. 29. Absentee ballots are also being mailed to voters this week. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Of all threats, foreign and domestic alike, there is no greater risk to our democracy than those within it failing to actively protect and preserve the fundamental rights that enable it to exist in the first place.

With rights, come shared responsibilities in and between citizens and elected officials alike. And of those rights and responsibilities, there are arguably few (if any) as paramount and fundamental as protecting the right to vote.

In preparation for 2022, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., made public remarks on the urgent need to prioritize the protection of voting rights in America stating, “I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this Congress is to get voting rights done.” For many, his words resonated more deeply than just a compelling plea or political cry. The senator’s words became a much-needed sign of hope. A hope that, after three frustrated attempts this past year to pass meaningful voting legislation on the federal level, the desire citizens have to continue fighting for voting rights, especially in states like Georgia and others attempting to blatantly thwart voting efforts, has not been forgotten.

Unfortunately, however, hope in and of itself at this point, although necessary - is not enough. We desperately need greater action this year, beginning with the filibuster vote Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced. But also including more elected officials speaking out, more of a sense of urgency by the acting administration and more citizens who will stand up and proclaim with one clear voice that our democracy hinges on our right to vote.

caption arrowCaption
Taos Wynn

Credit: Reginald Duncan

Taos Wynn

Credit: Reginald Duncan

caption arrowCaption
Taos Wynn

Credit: Reginald Duncan

Credit: Reginald Duncan

The issue of voting is too important to delay. At a time in which many Americans have grown tired of voting rights being used as pawns placed on the frontlines of political warfare, what has become abundantly clear is that neither partisan persuasion or political finger-pointing has proven effective in actually resolving the conflict and issue of voting rights in America today.

So where do we go from here?

As citizens, we too must continue to do our part in demanding unfettered access to the ballot box. And even more so now, as we enter into a seismic election year throughout the country, we must galvanize and recognize our power - understanding that no elected official or campaigning politician has the right to ask for our vote if they are unwilling to do everything in their power to protect our ability and right to cast our vote. And just as one cannot force another to vote, none should be allowed to infringe or frustrate anyone’s ability to vote.

It’s a matter of willingness. As Sen. Warnock attested, as a nation we recently witnessed what outcomes derived from our willingness to take important measures to address our limits on the country’s debt, and so respectfully my hope as a concerned citizen in this hour, is that our country quickly becomes just as willing to also address the ongoing limitations of our democracy; namely how many citizens are uninhibitedly allowed to cast their vote.

For the prosperity of our great nation does not rely on economic means alone, but also on the moral consciousness of our nation and the courage of our country to do what is right. Together, we must end the scaling pandemic of voter suppression plaguing our ill’d-democracy.

And I submit today that the timely vaccine for American democracy is voting rights. This is the pressing issue of this moment, and this is our grave constitutional concern - a matter which must be adequately addressed on both state and federal levels immediately.

Taos Wynn is an Atlanta-based author, orator and human rights advocate. He is the founder of the Perfect Love Foundation and the Millennial Civil Rights Movement.