“Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem the soul of America by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Voting and participating in the democratic process are key. The vote is a powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it, even in 2020.”
One of my heroes, John Lewis, asked that these words be published on the day of his funeral. He was trying to reach out to those who are not yet connected, not yet registered, to exhort them to become involved and vote.
Let’s follow his call and get into some good trouble, necessary trouble over the next few weeks.
It starts with making sure everyone registers to vote by Oct. 5 and voting on or before Nov. 3.
And here’s a radical idea: Let’s encourage everyone in our community to register and vote without caring how they’ll vote.
That’s the guiding principle behind a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) called Indiana Citizen Education Foundation. Sally and I were among the first contributors and I am a board member.
If you go to indianacitizen.org, you will quickly see there’s broad bipartisan support for our mission of increasing the number of informed, engaged Hoosier voters. You’ll see the names of Republican and Democratic party activists and former officeholders. We are joined by our concern about the civic health of Indiana.
As a proud Hoosier, I always wince when another national ranking comes out showing Indiana at the bottom of states, across a wide range of metrics. But the rankings that cause me the greatest concern are those having to do with the civic health of our state. Indiana is consistently at the bottom of states for voter registration, turnout and civic literacy, and that should make every Hoosier ashamed.
No doubt there are policies that get in the way of people voting, such as the voter ID requirements, how early our polls close and how only a small percentage of voters are permitted to vote absentee by mail. Frankly, it’s absurd we had no-excuse absentee voting in the primary, but not in the general election when Indiana’s COVID numbers are worse. No doubt the partisan gerrymandering that makes many races either uncontested or foreordained has some effect on turnout. No doubt the Electoral College deters some Hoosiers from voting because they feel their votes won’t make a difference in how Indiana goes in the presidential election. But those policies are not going to change between now and Nov. 3.
So what can be done right now?
Between now and Oct. 5 — when registration closes — every one of us needs to redouble our efforts to register our fellow Hoosiers who have not yet taken that step.
We’ve launched an aggressive effort to increase registration and turnout, connected to unbiased information about the candidates and issues. It’s called the One More Voice campaign. You may have seen our ads in the Recorder.
The One More Voice campaign is based on the unassailable idea that one more voice — one more vote — can really make a difference in the place you call home. Go to OneMoreVoice.com and you will get a sense of a sophisticated communications campaign intended to connect with unregistered Hoosiers — beginning with young people — and quickly get them registered online. Then, these new voters will receive regular updates on how to cast their first ballot. And this part is very cool: They’ll receive essentially a virtual ballot that will show the names of the candidates on their ballot, which they can click on, and go to unbiased information about those candidates.
President Barack Obama recently said it right:
“Make a plan right now for how you’re going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can and tell your family and friends how they can vote too. Do what Americans have done for over two centuries when faced with even tougher times than this — all those quiet heroes who found the courage to keep marching, keep pushing in the face of hardship and injustice.”
Go to OneMoreVoice.com and make your plan to vote. The health of our democracy depends on it.
Alan Mills is a partner at Barnes & Thornburg.