Originally published June 5, 2020 in the West End News (see original here)
As someone running for State Representative in Portland, I believe in the democratic power of people choosing their own representatives. That means I want every eligible Mainer to vote in the upcoming July 14 Primary Election, regardless of who they choose. However, coronavirus is making it harder for many people to vote. Last month I sent a letter to the Governor and Secretary of State with recommendations for making our elections safer and more accessible during this pandemic. As always, our democracy only works when we keep working to improve it. If you are registered to vote, here are three things you can do to vote in this election and make sure everyone else can vote, too.
Vote in the mail with an absentee ballot. Did you know that any voter in Maine can request an absentee ballot without excuse? Just take five minutes to request an absentee ballot online (charlesforportland.com/vote) or over the phone (Portland City Clerk: 874–8677) and your ballot will be sent to you in the mail. Fill it out, sign it, and send it back through the mail or drop it off in-person by election day. Absentee ballots count the same as every other ballot, and are a great way to reduce the number of people gathering at the polls on election day. Some people will have no choice but to vote in-person, but you can lower their risk of contracting the virus by skipping the line and voting ahead of time in the mail. Request your absentee ballot today!
Help others vote by working the polls. Maintaining some in-person voting is still an important way of making sure everyone can participate in our democracy — especially voters with disabilities, voters without a stable address, and those who need same-day registration. However, around 60% of those who usually work at our polling locations are in coronavirus high-risk categories. If other workers don’t take their place, some polling locations may need to close — forcing in-person voters to risk larger crowds and longer lines. If you are at lower-risk for coronavirus, consider stepping up this year to work at the polls. The people of Portland have already shown a remarkable ability to help their neighbors in need at this time. Working at the polls is one more important way to help our community respond to coronavirus. Get more information and sign up today at VoteInMaine.com/Work.
Make voting easier by advocating for change. This pandemic shows us that more action is needed to make sure every eligible Mainer has the opportunity to participate in our democracy. How can people register to vote when city hall is closed? How can voters request an absentee ballot if they don’t know they have this option? How can voters return an absentee ballot in the mail if they don’t have a stamp on hand? In my letter to the Governor and Secretary of State last month, I raised these questions and recommended some solutions: using email to help new voters register, mailing all voters an absentee ballot application, and more. As citizens, all of us can advocate for these important changes. Add your voice by asking your city clerk, your elected officials, and the Secretary of State what they are doing to make sure everyone can vote.
With our future at stake, we cannot allow coronavirus to disrupt the integrity of our democratic choice. However you choose to rank your ballot in this July Primary and the November General, I hope you will vote and do what you can to help others vote, too. The fate of our democracy is in each of our (thoroughly washed) hands.
Charles Skold lives in Portland’s West End and is a candidate for State Representative in District 38 (CharlesForPortland.com). He holds a Master’s of Theological Studies and a Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard University.