Wednesday, September 30, 2020

UIS Perspectives, Robert W. Smith: Your vote makes a difference

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration, Robert Smith. The column appeared in The State Journal-Register on September 27, 2020.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, was National Voter Registration Day. At UIS, our Volunteer & Civic Engagement team spent the day encouraging the UIS community to take the important step of registering to vote for the upcoming Nov. 3 election. The importance of voting cannot be understated, and I wanted to share insights from my UIS colleagues on some key questions at the core of the 2020 presidential race.

“President Trump has gone against many of the norms and traditions of the presidency for sure. During his first term, the degree of separation that is supposed to exist between the president and the Department of Justice has diminished. Whether it be his decision to fire former FBI Director Comey, or his reaction to former Attorney General Session’s decision to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation, his interactions with the Department of Justice have been well documented and critically scrutinized," political science Professor Matthew Geras said.

“Voters need to make themselves aware of four major social justice issues. First, voters need to be aware of the social justice implications of COVID-19. Due to structural racism and other forms of prejudice, historically marginalized communities have been disproportionately negatively affected. What sort of protections do we want to mitigate disproportionalities in infection rates and deaths? Second, voters study the causes and effects of police brutality and killings, which disproportionately affect Black persons, indigenous persons, and persons of color. What do we want departments to do to promote fairness and justice? Third, voters should be aware of changes to LGBT workplace protections, such as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Bostock v. Clayton Country. Per Title VII, an employer cannot fire someone solely for being LGBT. How do we enact the provisions of this ruling, and what forms of workplace discrimination still need to be addressed? Fourth, as predicted by climate scientists, global climate change has led to a deadly year of storms, wildfires, and inequities in resource availability and usage. What policies do we need to create cleaner, safer energy to protect current and future generations? These four issues have long divided voters. Some will argue that these issues are not issues, and some will deny that these issues exist," explained Sean McCandless, professor in the Department of Public Administration.

Before you vote this year, commit yourself to consuming a healthy diet of balanced and factual news. Democracy works best when you do.”

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider this Election Day. No matter who you vote for, my colleagues and I cannot emphasize enough how much your vote matters at the local, state and federal levels. And in 2020, your vote makes a difference more than ever in determining the future of this country and the institution of Democracy.

Go vote!