2020 is an extremely high-stakes election, and not only because it’s a presidential election year. Nevadans are voting on multiple state and local seats, including a large number of judges. Every race on the ballot this year represents an opportunity to stand up for survivors.
Survivors Are Affected By Government At Every Level
It can be easy to see the ways in which the federal government impacts survivors of sexual violence. Programs like PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) and VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) happen at the federal level. But from city-level decisions that determine funding for police departments and public safety ordinances, to Regent boards responsible for adopting Title IX policy recommendations, local government can have a more immediate influence on the daily lives of survivors.
Supporting survivors with your vote is about more than just the policies targeted at addressing sexual violence. The reality is that marginalization of every kind impacts the experiences of sexual assault survivors. Any political platform that benefits a vulnerable community (BIPOC, immigrant, low-income, houseless, LGBTQ, incarcerated, disability, etc) will ultimately benefit survivors who are part of those communities.
In fact, many of the key issues in the 2020 election have direct impact on the health and safety of survivors:
Healthcare. Access to affordable, reliable mental health services is an essential factor in survivor’s ability to heal. Look for candidates whose healthcare platforms prioritize mental health as much as physical health.
Criminal Justice. When considering different candidates’ approached to police reform, look for plans that acknowledge and address the ways in which our criminal justice system re-traumatizes victims. Some candidates’ positions on police reform extend to prison reform. Do these platforms acknowledge the issue of prison sexual abuse, and prioritize victim safety?
Income Inequality. Income inequality makes adults and children more vulnerable to abuse. “One study showed that raising minimum wage by $1 reduced reports of child maltreatment by nearly 10 percent. Directing funds to food pantries, baby pantries and childcare subsidies, [Melissa Merrick, CEO & President of Prevent Child Abuse America] said, are some ways to further reduce neglect.”
Staying Engaged Beyond the Election
Our civic responsibility doesn’t end after our vote is cast. We also have to be aware of how our representatives are voting. You can use this tool to look up your congressional representatives, and then view legislation that they have sponsored or cosponsored. The tool even lets you sort by policy area so you can focus on the issues most important to you.
Speaking during public comment periods at city or town council meetings is one of the most direct and effective ways to influence the policies that affect your close community. A quick internet search for “(your city) city council meeting” should allow you to find your local calendar so that you can plan ahead to participate. Interacting with your council member directly is another extremely impactful way of participating in local government. Las Vegas residents can use the Find Your Ward tool to find your ward and identify your council member.
Even school-level policies need our attention. Stay informed about how Title IX policy recommendations are being implemented in your community. Know who your CCSD and NSHE board members are, and contact them to express your support for strong protections for students.
This can seem like an overwhelming number of things to keep track of, which is why it is so important to work in solidarity with your community. No one person can monitor government at every level. Start by identifying one or two local organizations that track local policies or provide voter guides. Or, talk to 2 or 3 friends about each taking a different aspect of local government (city, state, school district) to keep track of and update each other on. Together we can work together to hold our representatives accountable.
Ways to Cast Your Vote in 2020
You can cast your vote in a variety of ways this year.
There is still time to deliver your mail-in ballot to one of the official drop off sites. There will be sites available to drop off your ballot up to and including Election Day. Once you’ve sent in your ballot, you can track its status with this tool from the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office.
In-person early voting has begun here in Nevada, and continues until this Friday, October 30th. Find an early voting site.
Election Day is Nov 3rd. Find your polling place.