Tea Time with Tagwa: COVID-19 does not excuse you from voting

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, the coronavirus has stripped us of any sense of normal we have. The walls of our homes are starting to feel like the metal bars in a cell. We all feel confined and constricted, with no end in sight. However, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: the importance of voting.

That’s right. Fulfilling your civic duty is still completely possible, with variations depending on where you live. Voting season is still here, and many states are postponing their primary elections in hopes of combating the virus. For example, Virginia is voting absentee ballot until further notice. Therefore, I get to stay home safe, while I still get my voice heard.

I’d like to think we’ve all seen what it’s like at the polls. The long lines, the political conversations with strangers, the touching of multiple items and, my personal favorite, the receiving of the sticker. Basically, there’s no way to practice social distancing at the polls.

Therefore, keeping scheduled elections for their intended date would make no sense. Thankfully, many states are complying with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Some states, however, decided to move forward with their primary elections. Arizona, Illinois and the infamous Florida proceeded with elections on March 17. While voter turnout in Illinois was extremely low, Arizona and Florida turnout actually surpassed their turnout in 2016

Listen, as an activist and politically active citizen, I always appreciate voting. What I don’t appreciate is complete and utter disregard for the safety and well-being of the nation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: COVID-19 is not a game. This virus has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. So, imagine my surprise when I see people in Arizona and Florida ignoring safety precautions, while I’ve been home for nearly a month now.

I understand wanting to vote. I understand the unwavering need to complete your civic duty. I understand the desire to have your voice heard. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t come at the risk of an entire nation. There are alternatives to holding elections on their scheduled dates with in-person voting. Social distancing is necessary; and quite frankly, not difficult if you put your mind to it. 

June 2 is now considered a Big Tuesday on calendars. Six states, including our neighbor Maryland and the capital, D.C., have moved their elections to this date. In reaction to the shift, the Democratic National Committee has also pushed its national conventions to mid-August, rather than July.

This is what I call making the best out of a bad situation. Yes, it sure is frustrating to move something so big, however, it is a necessary evil if we want to beat this virus. 

But, my deepest appreciation goes to states who have turned their in-person elections into mail-in elections and absentee ballots. Upcoming elections in states such as Alaska (April 10) and Wyoming (April 17), are using mail-in voting. This allows citizens to exercise their rights, while staying safe. 

We’ve all heard that the worst is yet to come. Unfortunately, this virus will be taking the next few months of our lives. But, we need to remember that our right to vote has not been taken from us. Staying safe and voting are not mutually exclusive. And that’s the tea.

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