Opinion: With election underway, knowledge and voting go hand-in-hand

10/1/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Voting an election signage is displayed during a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new Fulton County mobile voting bus in downtown Atlanta, Thursday, October 1, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com


We are all worried about our America now.

We’re living through times that are perilous in many ways – physically, mentally and economically.

It’s no surprise that our civic fabric – the cloth that ties us together, despite our differences – seems badly frayed.

The Nov. 3 election is 23 days away now. The work to choose who will represent us in government has already begun. So far, more than 260,000 Georgians have already cast absentee ballots, and early voting begins here on Monday.

We’ve written here before that this will be among the most-momentous elections in American history.

A transcript of the 1789 joint session of the First Congress that began the work to create the Bill of Rights notes that “extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institution.”

A piece that appeared on these pages two days ago captured our current moment. It was jointly authored by an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement and a white Wall Street financier. They wrote: “We are at a moment when almost every demographic group in America — from white evangelicals to Latinx immigrants — feels threatened. When people feel threatened, they retreat further into tribalism. Progress becomes impossible.”

The great American experiment is imperiled if progress fully stalls amid our anger and discord. Our history, imperfect as it is, has been marked by a relentless march toward ideals that have long defined us.

Which is why the Nov. 3 election is so important.

Making thoughtful choices requires information backed by real facts that aren’t tainted by partisan motives. They are harder to find these days, given a sea of self-serving disinformation offering a compelling lullaby that confirms – and never challenges – our beliefs or biases.

It’s harder for our democracy to succeed if citizens lock themselves into echo chambers where only what we fully agree with is heard.

An America at its best demands far more.

Our forebears understood how to engage respectfully with those with whom they disagreed. Most importantly, they knew how to listen to others' views. Solutions were the goal – not the arguments along the way, or worse, unproductive stalemates.

The coming election gives us all a powerful tool toward regaining this part of our American heritage. Making correct choices will require old-fashioned nonpartisan knowledge.

ExploreEarly voting begins Monday in Georgia: What voters need to know
The AJC Voter Guide was published in Sunday's paper and on ajc.com.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is here to help.

We take seriously our duty enshrined in the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, and our mission demands we lean fully into the work of helping safeguard democracy against onslaughts of disinformation.

Inside today’s newspaper and on AJC.com, you’ll find a voter guide that provides accurate and comprehensive information about the choices and issues that Georgians must decide.

The information in this guide is as unbiased and nonpartisan as humanly possible – unlike many of the partisan campaign flyers arriving at our homes now.

Our work is different, and we want you to know that.

And we realize the choices you make are fully yours, and we respect that.

We hope that you will keep that in mind as you absorb the information in our voter guide and our ongoing reporting about the big issues.

ExploreAJC Voter Guide for the Georgia Election

In a Washington Post opinion column last week, Paul Waldman wrote: “Most experts are predicting that turnout could reach 150 million voters this year, which would represent almost 65% of the eligible population. That would be higher than anything we’ve seen in more than half a century, but it would still mean a third of American adults not voting.”

That sobering assessment should compel each of us to study the issues, ponder the choices – and, most importantly -- to vote.

The Editorial Board

ExploreGeorgia elections 2020: How to follow AJC updates on voting and elections
ExploreOpinion: Safeguard your health when voting in-person

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