Please donate to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to help counter voter suppression. You can read more about how they are working to restore voting rights to people who have a felony conviction in this collaborative article with The Sentencing Project.
There is no perfect relationship. There is no perfect human. There is no perfect candidate. Our greatest assets are our flaws and embracing our flawed brethren is a sign of wisdom and humility.
A political love storyWhen I am labeled for my choice in candidates or how I vote on issues, that label is typically Democrat but I’m closer to a Democratic Socialist. Several years ago I met another human who is labeled as a Republican but is really more aligned with Libertarians. We found in our growing friendship that the outside labels applied to us restricted our views and never captured either of us, fully.
We are on the opposite sides of the political spectrum and you’d never think we could agree on anything. I will admit we have some pretty epic arguments. However, amidst all the yelling we find a small sliver of common ground. We pause, very often in surprise, and then we expand that common ground. It always, always gives me hope. We are more powerful working together than we are working apart.
My friend is as devastated as I am at how politics are stagnating, crumbling even, within a two-party system. It is painful to watch fewer and fewer citizens vote in elections because they feel like their voice doesn’t matter. We both agree that voting is the most powerful tool in our country and should be exercised without impediment and treated with the greatest of respect.
Steps to votingTo share my great respect for this privilege, I am using this space to help everyone know the steps to vote. My focus will be on Colorado while offering links to resources for other states.
In Colorado we have been using Vote-By-Mail ballots for a number of years and when you get your driver’s license from the DMV you are automatically registered to vote in the state. You can check your registration at govotecolorado.gov or by calling the Secretary of State at 303-894-2200.
If you don’t live in Colorado, go to iwillvote.com or vote.org or votesaveamerica.com or Democracy Docket to check your registration and learn more about the voting rules in your state!
In Colorado you can register to vote all the way through Election Day, although I do not recommend that option it is there if you need it. You would need to do this in-person at a polling center or your county clerk’s office.
Once you have confirmed that you are registered to vote, you should receive your ballot at the address where you are registered. Colorado mailed ballots to voters on October 9th. If you have not received your ballot, call your county clerk’s office or go to govotecolorado.gov to check the status of your ballot. RUN! Do not walk to check on this!
Filling in bubbles with a blue or black penYou have your ballot in hand, now what? Depending on where you live in a state, your ballot may be short or really long. This is typically due to the number of Ballot Measures that apply to your local area. There are 11 State Measures on this year’s Colorado ballot and your local area may have county and city measures to be voted on, as well.
It is not uncommon for voters to only fill in the bubble for the Presidential race. I implore you to fill out the entire ballot. Every race all the way to your county coroner or city council is important! Often, local elections will have more impact on your life than the federal government so take time to fill in all the bubbles on your ballot.
You’ll be getting calls from issue-based organizations and campaigns asking if you’ve voted. Yes, being inundated with phone calls can be annoying, however, those folks on the other end of the phone have information you can use to form an opinion (if you don’t already have one) about a ballot measure or a candidate. Also, if you speak to them and answer their questions you are less likely to be called a second time. And once you vote, the calls stop altogether!
I regularly use ballotpedia.org to learn more about ballot measures because they break them down into non-legal speak. There is no shame in not understanding a ballot measure as it is written. Take time to learn more about both sides before voting. If you have an organization that you trust — I follow recommendations from the ACLU — you can vote based on their suggestions.
The ever-important ballot envelopeAfter filling in every bubble on your ballot, fold it back up and put it in the envelope. The next step is so incredibly important that I’m going to yell:
BE SURE TO SIGN AND DATE THE BACK OF THE ENVELOPE!
Now is not the time to try out a new signature. Remember how you signed your drivers license or some other official state document? This is how you need to sign your envelope. You do not need a witness to your ballot unless you are unable to sign your own name.
Your ballot comes with a Voter Instructions sheet. It walks you through all the details you need to successfully return your ballot and provides a local phone number(s) and website for you to contact if you make a mistake or need help.
Finally, do you put a stamp on it and mail it or do you place it in a dropbox? I’m recommending that everyone take time to drop their ballot in a dropbox. On the Voter Instructions is a list of Ballot Drop-Off Locations. Please drop your ballot in an approved and listed location.
Voting in-personEarly voting began on Monday, October 19th in Colorado. If you prefer to vote in-person, go early and get it done. Again there will be a list of Polling Centers on the Voter Instructions sheet.
Be sure to wear a mask, bring water, a snack, a chair if you need one, and appropriate clothing to be outside for an extended amount of time. Depending on where you are voting in-person there may be long lines — this applies to anyone voting in-person, not just in Colorado.
Once you are in line to vote do not leave the line even if the polling centers are scheduled to close. The law protects voters who are in line and you are allowed to vote, as late as it takes to get through every person in line.
If you are in line to vote and anyone approaches you telling you how to vote or harassing you, they are breaking the law. You can call 1-866-687-8683 and ask for help and to report any incidents.
Track your ballotAfter you drop your ballot off or vote in a polling center, you can visit govotecolorado.gov and track your ballot to be sure it was received and counted. If you see it wasn’t counted you can contact your county clerk and verify your ballot.
Voting is the closest we get to perfection and we are far from getting this correct. Voter suppression is rampant in this country, and I know I am in a place of privilege in the ease with which I vote and the lack of concern that my ballot will be thrown out. To disrespect the privilege of voting by choosing not to vote is a spit in the eye of all the people who are removed from voting rolls because of their race, forced to stand in line for 12+ hours to vote, or watch their ballots thrown out due to some trumped-up rule.
Thank you for reading to the end. I promise my next column will be sexually pleasurable.
Erin Brandt (she/her/hers) has been a sexologist for 15 years. When she’s not spreading sexual knowledge, Erin can be found learning from her child, hiking with her partner, cuddling with her pitbull, knitting with her cat, dancing with friends, and searching for the nearest hammock and ocean breeze. Want more? Visit www.positivesexed.com