As our nation celebrates the life of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and his lifelong commitment to voting rights, sadly in the state of Maryland we find ourselves in a battle to protect our right to safely exercise our right to vote.
Like contestants on the television show “To Tell the Truth,” who all claim to be the same person with the objective to try to fool the judges into voting for the two impostors, Gov. Larry Hogan successfully convinced some that he was a moderate Republican who was not in lock step with Donald Trump. However, the real Larry Hogan is now standing up and standing against voter rights.
Like Trump, Hogan has decided to systematically create fear and confusion as we approach the upcoming general election.
In the midst of a global pandemic when there is nothing “normal,” Hogan has decided to have a “normal” election” vs. a vote-by-mail election that allows individuals to remain safe while exercising their right to vote. He himself, while managing the Maryland COVID-19 response, advised individuals over the age of 60 and those with underlying health issues to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
Yet now in the midst of escalating numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in our state, he has declared it safe for our seniors, the disabled and others to go out into potentially crowed spaces to vote in person.
Contrary to Hogan’s claim of partisan opposition to his decision, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that citizens seek alternatives to voting in person to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus. In addition, the Maryland Association of Election Officials, a nonpartisan group of professionals entrusted with managing elections, has strongly appealed to Hogan indicating that they do not have the capacity to conduct an in-person election.
Many local polling places as well as election judges have advised that that they will not be available because of their concern for their health and safety. Yet Hogan, like Trump, insists on ignoring the experts.
Many of us have worked tirelessly for years to expand voter access resulting in significant gains and increased voter participation. In Baltimore, during the June vote by mail election, we experienced a significant increase in voter participation and an increase in the number of first-time voters.
We will not be deterred nor will we be fooled like some contestants on “To Tell the Truth.” The real Hogan has stood up and we will stand up to this attempt to disenfranchise our community.
We will honor Congressman John Lewis’s legacy by getting in the way, with good and necessary trouble.
As we embark upon one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime, we will continue our commitment to an inclusive democracy with enhanced voter education, empowerment and engagement.
No one should be forced to choose between their health and safety or their right to vote. We will stand up to this plan that threatens to suppress the vote. Ballots should be sent directly to all voters.
–KARENTHIA A. BARBER
The writer is the chair of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee.
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