By Chris Archer, MLB Pitcher and Players Coalition Advocate
The upcoming Presidential election is the most important election in my lifetime, and I am registered to vote in one of the most important battleground states: Florida. I’ve spent several months educating myself about what is on the ballot, preparing to vote in the top-of-the-ticket race and, just as importantly, in those down-ballot races that impact things like city budgets, who goes to prison, and how people are policed. I have also been educated on one other thing: it is harder to vote than it should be.
I live in Florida but am currently spending the next couple months in California. I therefore did what the state of Florida told me to do: I printed out an application for a mail-in ballot, filled it out, sent it back, and tracked the mail to make sure it arrived. It did, over a month ago. A week went by, and I didn’t receive a ballot. Then another week passed, then another, and then I still had no ballot the week before the election.
I called the Board of Supervisors in my County. As nice as they were, they said they could do little to help me. While I had evidence that my request for a ballot arrived, they didn’t have it. They told me if I wanted to vote, I could either fly back to Florida or designate a legal representative to go pick up my ballot, overnight it to me, and then I could overnight it back. It is the middle of a global pandemic, and my friends in Florida are hospital workers and people with children. I could not ask them to jeopardize their health and give me their time when, as essential workers, they have so little of it. I started making plans to fly back for election day, jeopardizing my own health and safety, because this election is too important to miss.
But, then I remembered the Players Coalition, a non-profit I work with that provides support to athletes, coaches, and front offices who want to push for social justice and racial equality. Before taking the final step in booking that flight, I called them. They came through by connecting me with national organizer and activist who is based in Florida, David Ayala of Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People & Families Movement. David put me in touch with a voting rights attorney, Kira Romero-Craft of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. They are surely overloaded with work, but they sprang into action to help me — because the LatinoJustice believes that every vote matters. Kira volunteered to help make sure my ballot travelled safely to reach me. I am so grateful for their willingness to make sure my vote counts.
As a professional athlete, I have all the resources in the world, and yet I still found myself almost disenfranchised. I cannot imagine how many people in this country are facing the same problem but lack the resources or information to navigate what is sometimes a confusing system.
We must correct how difficult it is to vote here, especially in the face of a global pandemic. In a full and fair democracy, we should want everyone who wants to vote to do so. I am grateful that Players Coalition and two strangers made it so that I could vote, but we need that for everyone. In the meantime, election day is tomorrow. If you haven’t already done so, go vote.
Players Coalition is structured as an independent 501(c)(3) (charity) and 501(c)(4) (advocacy) organization, working with professional athletes, coaches and owners across leagues to improve social justice and racial equality in our country.