I ate inside a restaurant last week for the first time in 13 months. It felt weird, even though I’m fully vaccinated.
And, even if the governor says it’s OK, I wondered, is it really safe? A whole lot of Coloradans are still getting COVID and some of them could be right there in the next booth, off-gassing their viral load all over an unvaccinated waiter with three kids and no health insurance.
In the face of all that roiling re-entry anxiety, I realized how much the world and I have changed. We had to.
Now, with vaccines available at long last, we’re on the brink of a new normal.
For a lot of us, the change has been a good thing. After all, for a lot of us, commuting is optional … along with wearing shoes.
And in the looming post-pandemic world, we don’t have to slide back into the old rut.
My friend, a real estate agent, says after years of scorching demand for property in downtown Denver, this year her clients are engaging in frenzied bidding wars for houses in Evergreen, Conifer and other distant neighborhoods. Denver is still hot, for sure, but remote working means the burbs — and even some rural areas — are back with a vengeance.
After a few months of forced hiatus from hair stylists, a lot of men have embraced their inner cave man. And women have brazenly gone au naturel. Gray roots are everywhere, sneakers have eclipsed stilettos and, ahhhh, push-up bras are history.
It’s not all bad, and a lot of that is bound to stick.
But one of the most significant changes that has rumbled across the country thanks to COVID-19 is increased access to the ballot. It took 230-some years and a global pandemic, but finally voting in America in 2020 was not just for white people anymore.
With plenty of advice from Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, many states expanded absentee voting, mail ballots, early voting options and a variety of improved vote-counting rules that resulted in the highest voter turnout rate across the country in more than a century.
In many places, voters suddenly could register online, order an absentee ballot without a doctor’s note and drop off a ballot without risking their health standing in a long line or a crowded polling place.
And test after test of the results reinforced the integrity of the process and the accuracy of the outcome.
Good news, huh.
But, holy mother of Jim Crow, did that rile the sore losers.
Republican legislators in dozens of states from New Hampshire to Arizona proposed bills to restrict voter access.
More than 360 bills have been introduced this year in 47 states to restrict voter access.
They’re targeting absentee voting and making it harder to register to vote. They create methods for purging voter rolls in ways deliberately designed to disenfranchise certain voting groups. They undermine the power of election officials.
Georgia was the proud winner of the race to enact the sinister statutes, ramming through a package of changes that not just coincidentally would have the effect of making it a lot harder for Black voters to cast their ballots and a lot easier to throw them out.
- Early voting is expanded in small counties, but not in more densely populated, predominantly Black areas
- Drop boxes are all but eliminated
- Onerous ID requirements are imposed for voters choosing absentee ballots
- Mobile voting sites are nixed
- Extending voting hours is much more difficult regardless of what technical problems might arise at polling places
- The Republican legislature is empowered to intervene to control the state election board and suspend county election officials; and, most cynically,
- It’s now against the law in Georgia to offer food or water to anyone waiting in line to vote no matter how long the line or dangerous the weather
Now, it’s tempting for Colorado leaders and CEOs to sit smugly in their luxury boxes at the MLB All-Star Game and bask in the comfort of a progressive state where automatic voter registration, voting by mail and a raft of provisions to ensure the integrity of elections are the law of the land.
But an attack on democracy anywhere is an attack everywhere. Georgia’s laws are everybody’s business.
So, like the more than 100 corporate signatories, the actors, the law firms and other individuals and organizations that expressed their outrage over the voter suppression movement last week in two-page ads published in the Washington Post and the New York Times, Colorado leaders need to get off the sidelines.
The change was a long time coming. We need to protect it.
We can’t let 2020’s hard-won progress in voting rights be reversed by a dishonest and unapologetic white supremacist movement hellbent on sabotaging democracy.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.