Senior Lifestyles: Area seniors stay active in election despite COVID
Anyone who has been to a polling place in Vermont on Election Day knows that many of the volunteers who help their fellow citizens cast votes are senior citizens. Well, that was until coronavirus came and public health officials urged everyone — especially seniors — to social distance.
“I could understand the reluctance of poll workers to stay away from crowds; that’s a big issue,” said Middlebury resident David Rosenberg, who is nearly 80.
But seniors like David and his wife Jean, 77, still want to be engaged with the election process.
“We think things are great in Vermont in terms of safe voting,” David said.
“So we started to get more concerned about voter suppression in other places,” Jean added.
Enter “3 Flipping Things.” The ad-hoc grassroots organization run by three Middlebury residents takes a nonpartisan approach to encouraging citizens outside Vermont to register and vote in November’s election. In addition to other activities it provides postcards and lists of voters in swing states (lists thanks to national political action committee Swing Left). Local volunteers address the postcards — which give potential voters information on registering and getting ballots in their states — and mail them out.
After taking part of some online activism with an organization in Washington, D.C., last spring, the Rosenbergs learned about the effort in Middlebury to increase voter turnout in swing states, and they joined in. Since then they have sent out several hundred postcards to Texas, Georgia and North Carolina.
“We’re not worried about Vermont, but Vermont can be an example for other states,” Jean said. “That’s crucial.”
The Rosenbergs have been active in voting issues for decades. David, for instance, for many years was a justice of the peace and a member of the board of civil authority, which counts votes. Also, under the auspices of a group called Choose Democracy, the couple organized a Zoom-based political fundraiser for this past weekend. They have also made fundraising phone calls with regard to the current election.
“It’s not a new concern, but it seems more important now because of the voter suppression taking place,” Jean said.
Jean pointed out that she and her husband are retired and have time available to be politically active.
David Miskell, 72, of Charlotte describes himself as a lifelong activist and voter. He also welcomed a chance to take part in this year’s election while social distancing.
In 2016 Miskell did not like the Democratic candidate for president so he voted for the Green Party nominee, but he was not happy with the outcome of the election. So this year he felt it was even more important that he get involved.
“I thought, ‘You could done something to help,’ but what could I do?” he asked himself.
Although he has done plenty of protesting in the street in the anti-nuclear and anti-war movements, Miskell did not want to protest in the streets during this coronavirus pandemic.
After hearing about the voter information efforts of 3 Flipping Things, he jumped in.
“I sold my farm a year-and-a-half ago, so I had plenty of time,” Miskell said.
He works diligently putting names and addresses on voter information postcards — being careful to get everything correct so the messages get through. He has sent out more than 1,000 postcards as of last week and still had more to do.
“I’m hopeful that I’m doing something that is matters,” he said. “I wish I had started earlier.”
David Rosenberg sees an increasing need for seniors like him to get involved in the election.
“I think there is a growing concern about what happens after the votes are counted,” he said. “We have a president who said he might not accept the vote if there is fraud, and he said there is a likelihood there will be fraud.
“We think there is a small but possible chance President Trump will stop counting ballots if he is ahead,” he added. “We are starting to think the unthinkable.”
The Rosenbergs are happy to see that organizations and individuals in places all over are taking serious steps to counter voter suppression.
“We’re not alone in doing things,” Jean said. “There’s plenty of action.”