In the opening moments of a May 19 discussion about maintaining the integrity of the 2020 Illinois elections, Equality Illinois Policy Director Mike Ziri stressed the importance of state residents being vigilant about "the preservation of democratic norms, structures and processes" in the year ahead.
Indeed, even beyond the presidential race, stakes are rarely so high for an election, noted Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson. This upcoming contest determines the lawmakers who will draw up the next set of the state's electoral district.
"I don't think anyone should ever skip voting," said Johnson. "But if you are only going to vote in one election this decade, this would be the one."
Rep. Lamont Robinson, Chicago Votes Executive Director Stevie Valles and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Policy Director Justin Valas joined Johnson, Ziri and Equality Illinois Director of Development Emily Boyce for the May 19 online forum.
Robinson said that the chaotic response to the coronavirus pandemic is "a grave reason that we need to be galvanizing our communities and get them out to vote."
Experts anticipate that the United States will experience a resurgence in COVID-19 transmissions in the fall. As such, Robinson said, the state will need to make robust preparations so that voters have options to cast their ballots outside of election-day polls.
"We want to make sure that no one is left out," he added.
Valles' organization has long been committed to expanding voter access, participating in, among other efforts, the opening of a polling place at the Cook County Jail. He maintained that voter-suppression, especially against incarcerated Americans, has ensured that true democracy has never really materialized in this country.
"If you don't vote, we won't know if democracy works," Valles said. As such, election boards and community organizations must work together to both mitigate health risks and ensure a robust turnout, he added, noting, for example, that officials must strive for a younger pool of election judges. Most judges are 60 or older, a demographic that is especially vulnerable to coronavirus transmissions.