In November 2018, I won by 184 votes 10 days after the election. On election night, a local paper called the race for my opponent. I was asked why I wasn’t conceding, and I said because I hadn’t lost yet; I told voters that every vote counts and, therefore, we would wait until we counted every vote. We made history because we showed up.
In 2016, over 100 million eligible voters didn’t vote, for myriad reasons. History is made by those who show up, yet elections can easily be decided by those who sit them out.
This November, we have one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes, with some of our most broad-scale barriers, and no clear commitment from our executive branch for a free and fair election. Instead we’ve had a steady stream of propaganda, misinformation, conflicting strategies and sabotage, which has put the integrity and accessibility of our elections into jeopardy.
This election, it is essential to have a plan to vote. We will have four options this year: vote by mail, vote at the drop box, vote in person during early voting, October 26 to November 2, and vote in person on Election Day, November 3.
Voting in person will look different this year as well. Instead of polling stations at our assigned precinct, Election Day voting will look more like early voting, with voting centers that are open to any eligible voter in the county. We’ll be socially distanced, required to wear masks, and I suspect our poll workers will skew younger than we’ve seen in some time, all changes to address the pandemic and assure our safety and our right to vote.
There is an existential consequence of COVID, which is also on the ballot. November 10, a week after the election, while the ballot counts continue nationwide, the Supreme Court will begin oral arguments among a host of civil rights and equity issues, on the potential dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
Since its passing, there have been nearly 100 attempts to end — in part or in whole — the Affordable Care Act. In the 2020 Maryland General Assembly session, we passed a bill to codify the protections established by the federal law into our state law; however, this bill, which passed into law without the governor’s signature, extends only to the insurance market managed by the state.
Viewed through the lens of a pandemic, the attempts to end the protections of the ACA, particularly “pre-existing conditions,” seem all the more disastrous. According to the Center for American Progress, even before COVID and the loss for many of employer-based insurance, the end of the ACA could potentially strip 23.3 million Americans of their health insurance, but now, in light of the information coming out regarding the potential long-term impact of recovery from COVID, there is a more insidious implication not being discussed: the reality that COVID-related disease would now, under any new law, constitute a pre-existing condition. We don’t yet know the “whys,” but we have a good idea of the “whats” – long term and irreparable organ damage to the heart, lungs and brain; blood clots and clotting disorders; extreme fatigue that worsens with activity; post-traumatic stress disorders; anxiety and depression. It took 10 years to find an effective treatment for HIV/AIDS; we are on track to have a COVID vaccine in the next year, but the rollout could take up to three. In the interim, there are those in office now pushing for herd immunity by invoking widespread infection. Herd immunity requires an infection and recovery rate of 60 to 80 percent.
Whether you ascribe to the 100 percent mask and social distancing camp, or the low mortality, herd immunity community, that is a huge percentage of the population to potentially be ineligible for health care due to their pre-existing COVID-related medical condition.
Make a plan, mask up and go vote. I’m not asking you to vote in any direction, but I am asking you to vote because the future of our nation is too important to be left to those who didn’t show up, and we owe it to the more than 200,000 who no longer can.