By Amanda Litvinov
Educators know what’s at stake in election 2020—not just for public schools, but for our democracy. They also know that this year’s election will be different from previous cycles, with more people expected to vote by mail and voting early than ever before.
That’s why educators are stepping up to help fellow voters plan precisely how they will cast a ballot this year.
Their message is simple: The critical first step is for every voter to make a voting plan now. Then, the key is to follow it precisely.
NEA just launched a “Make a Plan to Vote” page that walks voters through a simple process that leaves nothing to chance. Embedded tools allow voters to check their registration, learn more about the candidates, locate their polling place, find absentee ballot request deadlines, and more.
NEA also has recruited thousands of Early Vote Educators who are reaching out to fellow voters to answer any questions they might have about the voting options available in their state. Educators bring essential skills to the table when it comes to making sure voters have all the information they will need if they choose to vote by mail—which is critical since procedures differ by state and locality.
Dave West, a retired high school teacher in Montgomery County, Md., who taught for 30 years, joined the Early Vote Educators team at the beginning of the summer. He sees the need to help voters plan how they will vote now so they don’t miss critical deadlines, particularly if they choose to vote by mail.
Voting by mail is a long-standing option that many states have used to ensure that all citizens have flexibility on how they cast their ballot. To take advantage of this option, voters must be clear on whether ballots will be sent to them or must be requested, whether it has to be postmarked or received by a certain date, and whether there has to be a signature on the outside and postage added.
“There is a real need for a lot of tutoring,” says West.
Educators are also participating in election activism through NEA’s broader voter mobilization program using OutreachCircle, a digital organizing resource that makes it easy for volunteers to reach out and encourage the voters who are already in their own networks. The platform has replaced door-to-door canvassing as a safer alternative during the pandemic.
Annice M. Benamy, a National Board Certified music teacher from Elizabeth, N.J., is an OutreachCircle mega-activist who has taken more actions than any other member so far.
“I like these 21st century tools, like texting and social media,” Benamy says. “I’m on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook—I can post something, and I’m in enough groups, a lot of people will see it.”
When asked about her motivation to take an active role in Election 2020, Benamy says without hesitation, “We literally have a secretary of education who’s trying to take money away from public schools—that alone is reason to elect a new president, and there are so many other reasons.”