A healthy democracy is critical for healthy communities, and health departments have a critical role to play to ensure that all communities have a say in the conditions and decisions that impact their lives. Here are five actions health departments can take to ensure healthy voting.
The act of voting directly impacts local, state, and national conditions that either advance or hinder our ability to be healthy – in other words, the social determinants of health. Health departments have a critical role to play to ensure all people have access to safe and healthy voting, so that communities have a say in the conditions and decisions that impact their lives.
Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, immigrants, working class and people with low incomes, and other disenfranchised groups have been most burdened by a lack of access to the social determinants of health, leading to poorer health outcomes. It is no coincidence that these same groups have historically been denied the right to vote. During the 2020 election, many communities continued to experienced voter suppression due to polling site closures, reductions in early voting periods, voter purges, voter intimidation, unsafe and insecure voting machines, voter ID laws, voter registration restrictions, disenfranchisement of people with felonies, misinformation campaigns, and challenges with receipt, delivery, and counting issues with mail-in ballots.
In the years since, state legislators have further codified these practices through legislation that decreases voting access and increases election interference. These practices disproportionately impact communities of color and can reinforce policies that further exacerbate health inequity. In addition to voter suppression, COVID-19 has introduced new challenges that add on to historic distrust and ongoing disenfranchisement in communities facing health inequities.
This resource includes 5 recommendations for health departments to take to ensure safe and healthy voting in 2022:
Leverage your own resources, people, and space
Highlight why voting is critical for health and equity
Disseminate guidance about healthy and safe voting
Support voting in your local jails
Work to address the root causes of inequities before and after elections
For more information on this resource, please contact Sari Bilick, Organizing Project Director at email@example.com. To explore how our Capacity Building offerings can support your organization’s efforts to build healthy communities, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.