This is the first installment in a new series in which we give you advice on how to talk to your friends and family about key issues for working families. We know that with family and work responsibilities, you don't have the time to do all the research on important topics you need to know about to be an effective voter, so we're going to do that for you and provide you with the best information and messaging about how you can talk to your friends and family.
This time, we're going to talk about voting rights. It's an election year and we're quickly approaching the time when you will be casting your ballot and making sure your voice is heard. Every state is different, though, in how you exercise those rights, and many states have different voting rules that have been passed in recent years. While there are many examples of states pushing laws to expand voting rights, there are also many politically motivated, partisan attempts to manipulate the outcomes of elections by changing the rules rather than by offering policies and politicians the people support.
In any conversation about politics, it is important to talk about values and to connect those values to real-world consequences for the average American. Across the political spectrum, Americans share the value that voting is a right that should be equally accessible to all citizens. A key component of democracy in the United States is the right to vote, and most Americans support keeping the right as free and as fair as possible.
Here are some of the most common topics and arguments you might encounter and the best ways to respond to those arguments:
"We need voter ID laws."
While it is important to protect the integrity of our elections, the biggest fraud we face in our elections are laws that make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast their ballot, particularly when those laws are attempts to manipulate the system and subvert the will of the people. Voter ID laws often require forms of identification that tens of millions of Americans don't have and, in millions of cases, aren't free or easy to obtain. Flexible voting laws, that guarantee election integrity and allow every American who wants to vote to do so, are vitally important.
"But everybody should have to show an ID to vote."
The problem is that the new laws generally are so specific in what types of IDs they allow and these laws usually outlaw types of IDs that were previously acceptable without any real evidence that those types of IDs were associated with significant voter fraud. More than 10% of Americans lack a government-issued photo ID and the laws we've seen passed in the past four years are disproportionately likely to make it harder to vote for seniors, people with disabilities, students, women and many others.
"But you need an ID to fly or buy a beer."
True, but if you can't buy a beer because you don't have the proper ID, it has no negative effect on the functioning of our democracy or your ability to express your right to vote. When eligible voters are denied the right to vote that undermines democracy and denies people's rights.
"Early voting should be curtailed because it is a gateway to fraud and double-voting."
Elections are the time when Americans are the most equal—we all have only one vote and nobody's vote counts more than anyone else's. Our elections should remain free, fair and accessible. Many people choose to vote early because of work or family responsibilities, because they are traveling or because they have transportation challenges. Early voting makes it easier for responsible voters to make sure their voice is heard. There isn't significant evidence of fraud in early voting and it's wrong to limit access to the ballot for political reasons.
"The system works fine as it is."
If you are an eligible voter, you should face as few barriers as possible to casting your ballot. Our registration system is inconsistent from state to state and is vulnerable to human error (such as typos and lost or incorrectly entered forms), which can prevent citizens from voting through no error of their own. We can harness technology to modernize our system and give more options to register securely and conveniently. Voters shouldn't lose their right to vote simply because they move, something that is happening more and more often in tough economic times.
If you or someone you know hasn't updated his or her registration since moving or needs to register, registering to vote is easy and fast through the AFL-CIO's TurboVote tool.
If you have questions on what is needed at your polling place on Election Day, check out the MyVoteMyRight website or text RIGHTS to 235246.