Episode 11. Charleston County General Election 2020 Voter Information.
It Is Your Civic Duty to Vote: A Conversation with League of Women Voters’ Joan Zaleski
Joan Zaleski is the Director of Voter Services at the Charleston Area League of Women Voters (LWV). She was the president of the New York chapter in the 1970s, where she worked on issues such as the Equal Rights Amendment. Fast-forward past getting her master’s, a doctorate and teaching at Hofstra University, and Joan ended up in Charleston in 2013. Here, she reacquainted herself with the LWV in effort to continue lifelong learning about local, state and national issues.
Is the LWV a non-partisan organization?
Absolutely. From the very beginning, LWV has always been a non-partisan organization purely interested in getting people to vote. To understand that, you have to first know the history. The League was founded 100 years ago in the fight for women’s suffrage. Those early suffragettes quickly realized that even though women had won the right to vote, there was still plenty to do. For starters, women had to be educated on the process of voting and on what exactly they were voting for. In other words, they needed to understand what was on the ballot.
What is the LWV’s mission?
Civil Rights activist John Lewis once said, “the vote is the most powerful non-violent change agent we have as a democratic society, and we must use it because it is not guaranteed and you can lose it.” I like to add that you must protect it, which is what the League does. For example, in South Carolina, the State league fought the voter ID law in 2011. Our lawsuit ensured protection against compromising the Voters Rights Act by adding the ‘Reasonable Impediment’ clause. This year, with the pandemic, we advocated for safe and secure voting and no-excuse absentee voting. Protecting your vote has been our mission for the past 100 years.
What are some of the hot button issues you have been approached about recently?
Absentee ballots. A lot of people want to know if their absentee ballot will count, due to a lot of misinformation in the news. Will it get lost? Will they get it in time? There are plenty of safety conditions built into the system to make sure your absentee ballot is counted. So trust the system.
Important Voting Websites
For voter info and polling places
For candidate information
Board of Elections for voting questions
For local LWV information, candidate forums and more.
2020 General Election Info Podcast
Answers to all your burning questions about voting in the 2020 General Election.
Early Voting Locations & Times
2020 General Election voting locations and times.
Links from this Podcast
There are also lots of questions about early voting. I got an email from a league voter this morning about whether she has to make an appointment to vote early (you do not) and if she has to fill out an application to vote early (you do not). I have had so many of these types of questions recently, unlike during any other election.
One of the biggest reasons why people don’t vote is that they feel it won’t count. But think about the history of voting in this country. It is your time, as part of a democratic society, to make your voice heard, whether your candidate wins or loses. You have a right and a duty to make your voice heard. It comes on the shoulders of people who fought and died for the right to vote. It is part of your civic duty to be actively engaged, know who is running, check on their qualifications and then vote for the person who addresses the issues that are important to you.
When I talk to young people about voting, in order to motivate them, I ask them which issues they care about. We all have issues we care about. Find out which candidates address those issues and vote from them. It is our responsibility to do our due diligence.
How can you get up-to-date information on the candidates and the issues?
Go to Vote411.org to help you make decisions about candidates. You need a voter’s guide, and this one is easily accessible and digital.
Any tips before going to the polls?
Always check that your voter registration is up-to-date. It doesn’t hurt to make sure it’s still active, especially if you have moved. And check your polling place at the same time. You can do all of this at SCVotes.gov. Also, go to our website, lwv.org/south-carolina/charleston-area, and get informed. There is plenty of information to separate the facts from the fiction.
How can voters become more involved if they want to?
First, I have to tout the work we do. Support the League by becoming a member or with a donation. We are the preeminent group that does voter registration and citizen education because we are non-partisan. We just want people to register to vote, know who they are voting for and get out there and vote. And we always need volunteers. Or join a political party. They are the ones who make the phone calls and canvas with door hangers.