As we continue our series “ Plastic-Free July – Through A Different Lens” we look at why voting matters to ensure environmental justice. As environmental activists, we recognize that environmental and climate justice can not come without social justice. And that includes voter justice.
One of the best ways we can effect change is through voting, in each and every election. Voting gives power to the people and allows us to hold our leaders accountable.
As we’ve discussed over the last couple of weeks, communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately harmed by their proximity to some of our nation’s most toxic and polluting locations. These communities are also often left out of the political processes and decisions that affect their communities.
Barriers to Voting
Barriers to voting are more often targeted at communities of color and low-income communities. We’ve seen it very recently in the headlines, where the number of polling places was reduced in certain areas of Kentucky for their recent primary elections. Incidents of voter suppression and gerrymandering are most often targeted at communities of color and low-income communities and these communities experience higher levels of environmental racism through such things as air and water pollution. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report last year, Our Unhealthy Democracy: How Voting Restrictions Harm Public Health—and What We Can Do About It, documenting the connection between states where it’s harder to vote and the worse health outcomes in those states. These negative health outcomes are only exacerbated by COVID-19 as air quality is a risk factor for respiratory health and COVID-19.
“With equal access to the ballot box, the communities that our country has traditionally left out of the decision making process can reclaim their rightful influence, resulting in a system that responds to the people’s will to overcome our country’s most critical environmental challenges.” – Justin Kwasa,Voting Rights Program Director, League of Conservation Voters (LCV)
What You Can Do: Voting Matters
Check to see if you are already registered to vote. If not, they will get you registered!
Due to coronavirus outbreaks, there is a good chance there may be fewer polls open and longer lines for the Nov. 3 election. To ensure that you’re able to vote we urge you to request an absentee ballot now.
Volunteer or Donate
If you want to help Get Out the Vote there are some great groups that are looking for support:
Support organizations such as the Environmental Voter Project, which is focused on solving the environmental voter turnout problem or The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCVEF) working to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities.
Use Your Voice
Contact your Representatives to tell them you support the Environmental Justice for All Act which would help support communities and workers as they transition away from greenhouse gas-dependent economies as well as strengthening the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Voting matters. Local, state and federal elections can make a huge difference in our lives and the environment. Be sure you’re registered, get politically engaged and make your voice heard! Vote at the ballot. Vote with your wallet. Vote for environmental progress and environmental justice.