The Chattanooga DSA and several other organizations expressed their support for counting every vote during their Wednesday night rally in Coolidge Park. This happened amid controversy surrounding the presidential election, where the subject of counting mail-in ballots is a hotly-debated issue. While Tennessee voted overwhelmingly for Republican incumbent Donald Trump, the rally-goers said they still believe it is important to express their views to the federal government.
“This is unacceptable that you have to be out here to ask our government to count the votes,” said Sierra White, the chair of the organizing board for the Chattanooga DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) “We are out here organizing because that’s what we have to do to protect our democracy.”
UTC professor of political science Jeremy Strickler told the crowd that no election is ever decided on one night, as the presidential election is actually more like 51 separate state elections, each with its own rules and processes.
“It takes time to tally all of those votes, and the process is working and must be allowed to continue. Every vote needs to be counted,” the professor said. “We have never had an election certified on election night, and throughout American history, we have never officially known who the president was on election night.”
“It is dangerous to have a president declare that we should end the vote. That is not how a democracy works. Legal and election experts have been telling us in the run-up that this very thing was going to happen.”
He said the pandemic caused there to be an “unprecedented” amount of mail-in ballots, and that those ballots will require time to count. He said these ballots tend to favor Democratic candidates, and so early voting would skew the results “red” before the mail-in ballots shaded the results “blue” in several swing states.
UTC student and vice president of the YDSA Evelina Kertay said that while many are scared or concerned by what is happening surrounding the election, this could lead to positive results.
“I would suggest to you that fear is a good emotion to have right now. There is a real threat we lose our democracy, our values, and our rights, and so I think fear is a reasonable response,” Ms. Kertay said. “It means we are not sure of what is going to happen, and that we can change the outcome.”
Carla Leslie of the United Steelworkers of the Chattanooga Labor Council said, “We have to count every vote, let every vote be counted in America, be it today or tomorrow or whenever. Whatever it takes,” Ms. Leslie said. “Tell your families and tell your friends, and keep pushing it.”
She echoed sentiments by other speakers, and urged the government to count every vote.
Another common theme from each speaker was that while federal elections are important, so are local races.
“Our organization is focused on mobilizing the immigrant community in Chattanooga, and generally elections fall to the conservative side are harmful for the immigrant community, “said Tennessee United co-organizer Jared Steiman about incumbent conservative Todd Gardenhire winning a close race with challenger Glenn Scruggs.
The press release sent out by the DSA read as follows:
“Free and fair elections and a peaceful transfer of power are at the heart of a functioning democracy. This election season has seen a flurry of antidemocratic rhetoric, encouragement of voter intimidation, and sustained legal challenges aimed at suppressing mail-in ballots during this unprecedented election season occurring amid a pandemic.
As citizens of a free democracy, a non-partisan coalition of local organizations, spearheaded by Chattanooga Democratic Socialists of America, feel compelled to speak out against any and all attempts to undermine our elections and sow doubt about the integrity of the voting process and the validity of the results. This rally is just one of many 'Protect the Results' rallies going on today across the nation, including several in Tennessee.
"In particular, we want to emphasize to our community that the official tabulation of the election results has never been completed on the night of the election, and it was premature for President Trump to proclaim victory. This election, more than any other, will require extra time to count mail-in and provisional ballots. Out of respect for everyone’s right to vote, we demand that every vote be counted.
"These are our demands:
• All eligible ballots must be counted
• The election results must be respected
• If evidence emerges of election irregularities, impartial investigations need to be launched and remedies quickly and appropriately applied.
• Police and military will respect people's First Amendment rights and also protect those rights from armed individuals and groups who may threaten them.”