I now live in Maryland and send my vote home to Texas. My home state knows a history similar to that of Mississippi and Florida in systemic forms of voter suppression, so early on I began receiving reminders to register, vote absentee, vote early, and create a voting plan.
Policy-based intimidation has evolved, not ended.“
The value of a voting plan creates the mental picture to determine needed steps in the procedure of voting from start to finish. Behavioral science tells us this increases the likelihood of completing the process. An additional value is found in navigating the inevitable moments of stress, distress, and distraction. If you’ve created a plan and you encounter opposition, your mind defaults to problem-solving in order to accomplish the task. This is the legacy of Black people and women resisting suppression and making it to the polls to vote – an act often costing them time, money, dignity, and their very lives.
The significance of a voting plan is draped in the historical precedents of voter suppression and obstruction. Throughout American history, White male property owning voters put in place strategies to secure the sole efficacy of their own vote. These include but are not limited to the Electoral College, and the Mississippi Plan of 1890 (poll tax, literacy test, grandfather and/or property clause). The Black Codes, in reaction to the 13th amendment, criminalized unemployment among other things, leading to the arrest, incarceration, and permanent disenfranchisement of Black people.
Today, policy-based intimidation has evolved not ended. Even physical intimidation remains. So have a plan—but not just a plan to vote. Make a physical safety plan too. Pack a bug-out bag. Know your evacuation route if violence occurs or intimidation makes you feel unsafe. Shop enough to shelter in place in case it is unsafe to leave your home. Make a mental health plan. Identify self-care practices for managing the anxiety of election day and the aftermath. Identify how you will continue to care for yourself as we navigate the next four years.
Regardless of the outcome, there remains much work ahead to create a future that includes all of us. And this deserves a plan of action just as much, if not more, than our November 3rd, 2020 voting plan.