by Matt Tolbert, A2021 and Lidya Woldeyesus, A2022
COIVD-19 has placed many of America’s most glaring injustices on full display. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing have left millions without work, unable to pay bills or even budget for essentials like groceries. Workers that are now deemed essential and celebrated as heroes are among the lowest-paid workers in the country. Every students’ education has been disrupted or placed on hold, and millions of low-income school children have been cut off from essential services provided by schools.
Amidst the massive loss of life and glaring inequities COVID has left in its wake, access to the ballot and the very democratic process itself is on the line.
The situation in Wisconsin was the most severe attack on democratic values to date to stem from the pandemic. Voters were forced to choose between adhering to the state stay-at-home order and exercising their right to vote after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court ruling that the governor could not reschedule the primary as many other states had done. In addition to this affront to Wisconsinites civil rights and public health, only five of Milwaukee’s 180 voting precincts were allowed to open, forcing lines of hundreds of people to wait outside. Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund told The Atlantic: “I don’t know that it gets more stark, really more humiliating for us a democracy.”
Wisconsin only highlights what’s at stake not just in the 2020 election, but every state, local, and national election thereafter. The inequities that have exacerbated the COVID epidemic – lack of universal healthcare, no paid sick leave, the pay gap, poverty – are all coming to national attention in a way that seemed impossible three months ago. Activists and organizers from America’s cities, countryside, and universities have laid the groundwork for such change to be a reality.
Tufts is leading the way in youth voting and democratic engagement. Tufts is a part of the BostonVotes coalition which seeks to build a network of students and administrators dedicated to amplifying voter engagement on their respective campuses. This mission has two goals: first, to increase the proportion of youth votes in the electorate; second, to instill a culture of civic participation in the broader Greater Boston community more broadly. We believe that with a metro-wide effort, we can utilize a surround-sound approach to ingrain a deeper culture of voting in a significant slice of our generation.