The idea of “one person, one vote” has always been grounded in the principles of individual freedom, choice and power in our democracy. While this is true, the right to vote is also about our families and our communities, not just each of us as individuals. Participating in our democracy is a commitment to creating a world where our friends and our families can not just live but thrive.
For New Mexicans, this is a mindset we live by. On June 2, our state’s primary, we must make our voices heard. Our faith, our traditions and our values have always demanded that we show up and fight not just for ourselves but for each other. We know that what is is not what has to be and that through civic participation we can reshape this world to reflect our values.
However, this year the coronavirus will test that commitment like never before. The virus threatens robust participation by working-class indigenous, Latinx and black families in New Mexico for whom voting by absentee ballot through the mail may not be a viable or reliable option and who are calling on our local and state leaders to ensure alternatives such as equitably distributed in-person voting locations, curbside voting and ballot drop boxes.
The devastating impact of COVID-19 on our communities has made it more important than ever that we are able to safely and easily cast our votes, especially because the virus is hitting the Native and Hispanic communities hard. In New Mexico as all over the country, these outcomes are closely tied to policy choices that have created unequal access to essentials like health care, clean water and nutrition.
The virus has made plain that for too long our government has served a powerful “old boy’s network” at the expense of working class people, many of whom are now risking their lives as essential workers. We need leaders who will join us in the fight for policies that reward hard work and put us all on the path toward economic freedom with well-paying jobs and good schools for our children, while ensuring that rich corporations pay their fair share in taxes to help us maintain a strong infrastructure.
Struggle is nothing new to New Mexicans, but neither are solidarity, strength, hard work and hope. As COVID-19 ravages the world, we deal with this latest battle just as we have dealt with challenges throughout our unique history. Those of us who can vote, must, while those who cannot should stay engaged through organizing and educating our communities. And we will, because we know that we are inextricably bound together and therefore must be for each other, on election day and every day.
-Mary Ann Maestas