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This Year, Your Vote Is More Important Than Ever

The coronavirus pandemic makes voting more difficult — and more essential

 jo ann jenkins  c e o of a a r p

Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Jo Ann Jenkins

En español | The coronavirus has made 2020 one of the most difficult years in memory, especially for the older adults who are at increased risk for severe illness. So it’s been inspiring to see how many Americans have already voted in the general election, despite the challenges of casting a ballot during the pandemic, and to hear about all those planning to vote in the days leading up to Election Day.

Some 75 million Americans have already voted, via absentee ballots, mail-in voting and early in-person voting. In fact, more people have cast early ballots so far in this presidential election than voted early in 2016. Although young people are voting early in higher numbers than four years ago, voters over age 50 have cast about two-thirds of the early votes in this election.

One of those voters is Evangeline Paredes, a 104-year-old assisted living resident in Washington, D.C., whom my staff talked to recently. She typically goes to the polls in person but voted absentee this year. “I mailed it in early,” says Paredes, who was born before women in the United States won the right to vote. “It’s your future, and you vote for what you think is right.”

I couldn’t agree more. Voting is foundational to our democracy and one of the most patriotic actions you can take. In the face of COVID, AARP launched a Protect Voters 50+ campaign to fight for more options for voting safely. We also published guides to voting as safely as possible in every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. And we launched an initiative to enlist poll workers, whose ranks have traditionally been filled by people over 50, for Election Day and early in-person voting.

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There’s so much at stake for Americans 50-plus in this election: the need to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare and to lower the price of prescription drugs; fixing our inadequate long-term care system, the problems of which were starkly brought to light by COVID-19’s tragic toll on our nation’s nursing homes; and making sure you and your families will recover from the economic downturn that has left so many unemployed or without an adequate safety net as the pandemic lingers on. Paredes, a longtime AARP volunteer who has fought for Medicare and Social Security, says she’s “worried about the economy, which has gone down, down, down.”

We’ve asked President Trump and former Vice President Biden where they stand on these issues and put the same questions to U.S. Senate and House candidates in key races across the country. I hope our resources help you safely cast your ballot from home or in person if you haven’t yet. COVID didn’t stop Evangeline Paredes from voting, and it shouldn’t stop you. Make your voice heard.