ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Less than two weeks before the election, and it’s time to make that final push.
Some might call it that final nag. So be it.
Not like others haven’t been trying. For months, our mailboxes have been jammed with political flyers and the handwritten letters and post cards sent by volunteers hoping that the personal touch convinces us to vote. Campaign fundraisers begging for donations, if not our votes, have been sprouting in our inboxes like fungi after a flood.
Phone bankers have our number. We watch TV shows crammed between campaign and get-out-the-vote ads. Facebook friends and family smile proudly back at us as they show off their “I Voted” stickers and post photos of the lines they stood in to fulfill their patriotic duty.
And still we don’t persist – enough.
The promising news is that as of this week a record 52 million-plus Americans have already cast their votes nationwide, both by absentee ballot and early in-person voting. That includes about 443,250 New Mexicans, or nearly 35% of eligible voters in the state. All that in spite of record-rising COVID-19 numbers, shady voter suppression tactics in some parts of the country and one of the most polarizing presidential elections since, uh, 2016.
Michael McDonald, a political scientist with the U.S. Elections Project, predicts a “voter turnout storm of a century in 2020,” estimating that as many as two-thirds of eligible voters may cast their ballots, many of them before Nov. 3.
So, yay, for those who turned in ballots or turned up at the polls so far. But that, my fellow Americans, isn’t good enough.
What does it take to get some of the rest of you to vote? How else do we convince you that your vote matters? Need help? Just ask.
You know what’s at stake, at least I hope you do. I hope your disappointment over your candidate not winning the primary isn’t holding you back. I hope you still believe enough in this country of ours to do your sacred duty that those who came before you fought and died for.
So we make deals. We offer rides. We threaten to unfriend. We argue – civilly and constructively, I’d like to think – with those who have fallen for fake news or down the wretched rabbit hole of QAnon. We urge. We cajole.
We rescue. Reader Marian Davis helped obtain an absentee ballot for a woman struggling with a hard life and poor health by contacting state Sen. Daniel Ivey-Soto to straighten out a mistake on a parole charge and walking her through the voting process for the very first time.
We don’t lose hope. Reader Tom Anderson relates a story about a son who had ignored his mother’s pleas to complete his absentee ballot until he connected virtually with U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez via a video game with fellow Rep. Ilhan Omar live-streamed on Twitch.
We play the Mom card. Reader Mary Leto Pareja said she took her kids, ages 18 and 19, to vote this week. But she didn’t stop there. She helped one of their boyfriends obtain an absentee ballot and voter guide and is helping the other take advantage of same-day registration.
For me, the Mom card begins as a gentle reminder – or as gentle as my urgent less-than-two-weeks-the-weather-is-about-to-go-to-heck-why-haven’t-you-already-voted-didn’t-I-raise-you-right Mom reminders can be. I text a pithy vote meme, a list of early voting sites. I sprinkle in a little guilt for good measure as only mothers can. I don’t specify who my kids should vote for (though I’m fairly certain they know my preference).
One of my sons begrudgingly responded that he was waiting to vote next month. I reminded him there is only one day to vote in November, and it’s the last one – which seemed to take him by surprise. Sigh.
I pointed out that things always come up at the last minute in his chaotic life so best not put off what he can do now.
I sent more pithy memes, more arguments about the importance of voting – and voting for the right candidate.
“Okay mom,” he texted finally, “I’ll go this weekend.”
We shall see.
If he doesn’t, I’ve got plenty of pithy memes, plenty of arguments, plenty of reminders and reasons and nagging left in my arsenal.
I hope you do, too.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Reach Joline at 730-2793, firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook or @jolinegkg on Twitter.