Oped: Voter participation, protection vital

Sandra Thompson, Elizabeth Alex
Guest Column

During this critical election year, the national conversation about vote rigging and voter fraud is a distraction that is weakening our democracy. American democracy is a model for nations around the world. All of us — Democrats, Republicans, Independents, third parties— should be proud of our system of government and should have confidence that our votes count.

Joanna Guerrero, with CASA, right, talks to resident Jean Cajuste, of York City, inquiring about the names on her list at the address, and encouraging residents to vote as part of a voting initiative in York City, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

People fought hard to ensure that we have the right to vote, and we should be celebrating and exercising that privilege. As examples of our democratic system, candidates should be working to make sure that all voters understand that their vote matters.

Conspiracy theories about rigged elections weaken our democracy by making people think their votes don't count. But the same people who claim our elections are rigged also refuse to support common sense updates and safeguards that can strengthen the security of the voting system and fail to make the voting process more accessible.

The biggest concern that voters should have about Pennsylvania’s election process is not voter fraud or rigged elections, but a lack of participation. We must ensure that all eligible voters in our county and state fully participate by voting.

In the primary election, there were 278,893 eligible voters, but only 111,148 people voted, which is less than 40 percent turnout. Almost 178, 000 people who deserve a say in their government failed to step forward to claim their right. Participation began with voter registration, but it continues with people getting out to vote today, Election Day.

No person who is eligible to vote and willing to vote should be too scared to vote. Attempting to scare eligible voters away from the polls on Nov. 8 is not only wrong, but it is illegal. CASA and the York NAACP are part of a nonpartisan election protection coalition working hard to ensure that all eligible voters have a smooth voting experience and know their rights.

If a voter has questions or concerns or feel intimidated, he/she can call 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683) to get assistance from a team of election experts. Our democracy works best when the greatest number of eligible voters make their voices heard on Election Day and the truth is that our systems for protecting the integrity of our voting system have never been stronger.

Let’s go out to vote today, and make a stronger democracy.

— Elizabeth Alex is regional director of CASA. Email her at Sandra Thompson, is president of York NAACP. Email her at