Gamze Kazakoglu, Contributing Photographer
On the day following an inconclusive presidential election, groups of New Haven residents took to demonstrations to tell election officials to “count every vote” and condemn voter suppression and Trump’s calls to stop counting votes in several key states.
Wednesday afternoon saw the gathering of about three dozen demonstrators at the New Haven Green for a rally organized by local groups including the Working Families Party, League of Women Voters of Connecticut and Central Connecticut Democratic Socialists of America. This “count every vote” rally included activists and elected officials, who spoke about the stakes of another term for the Trump administration. Later that evening, activist organizations like Unidad Latina en Acción, Hamden Action Now and Black and Brown United in Action held a similar rally in the Fair Haven neighborhood calling for the Trump campaign to stop its publicized efforts to discard mail-in ballots in several close battleground states.
“I want democracy not to be suppressed in this election,” said Rhonda Caldwell of Hamden Action Now. “Every single vote will be counted. We need to talk about voter suppression in Connecticut. Voter suppression of [the] Black and brown community is real.”
Caldwell told those in attendance that she believes that the historic turnout in this year’s election was an inspiring sign of popular mobilization. The organizer said that she has seen “Black and brown folks running to the door to have their votes counted” in her home community of Hamden. She told the News that she was surprised by lines that stretched far out the door at the polls in New Haven, adding that the Elm City usually has to prepare for low turnout, not “over-turnout.”
For Caldwell, the integrity of the election is important because it means that the people of color that she saw come out and vote have the opportunity to influence the politics of their communities.
Another speaker, Gretchen Raffa, director of public policy and advocacy for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, told the crowd gathered that she had come out to the Green to make sure that all New Haveners’ voices were heard. To her, the election results represent, in part, a referendum on women’s reproductive health care in the country.
Raffa said she has been disappointed by the Trump administration’s rollback on the “fundamental right to health care.” She said voting — and having that vote be counted — would show that the American people support access to “safe legal abortion” by voting out the current administration and changing the demographics of the country’s elected representatives.
“All our voices must be heard and they absolutely will be,” said Raffa.
As the rally at the Green came to an end, newly reelected State Sen. Gary Winfield, D-New Haven, asked those in attendance to “resist” the current political climate by changing their actions beyond the rally. While criticizing Trump from afar helps show the voice of the community, New Haveners should also focus on discussing their political views with those we “don’t want to have that conversation with because it’s uncomfortable.”
Later that evening, a different group of organizations — ULA, Hamden Action Now and Black and Brown United in Action — held a rally at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Ferry Street. Some two dozen community members gathered to show their opposition to efforts in court by the Trump campaign’s to discredit mail-in ballots in several close battleground states. Organizers also condemned the administration for inciting hatred and voter suppression in this month’s election.
“We will not rest until every vote is counted,” ULA communications representative Megan Fountain said to the crowd. “We know that the president has said that some of the mail-in votes could be fraudulent as an excuse to not count all the votes. But everyone is vigilant.”
Fountain also took the chance to rally community members to involve themselves in local political efforts regardless of the eventual outcome of the election. She asked those in attendance to be “ready to fight for immigration reform, ready to fight for workers’ dignity, ready to fight for health care.”
Black and Brown United in Action member Catherine Brown said she believed the rally was important because of the various forms of voter suppression or discouragement that appeared on election day this year.
Brown told the News that various aspects of New Haven’s electoral system, including that voters must visit the back of City Hall and pay parking fees to pick up election materials, illustrate that the system is inaccessible, especially for elderly and disabled voters. She noted that Connecticut voter suppression has also impacted voters of color.
“Voter suppression has always been a concern in Connecticut,” Brown said. “The process is not inclusive for the disabled, the elderly and for Black and brown people. It’s 2020, and there’s no reason why we should have such an archaic system. We’re here to say that we’re here, we’re here to stay and our votes matter.”
Yet activists like Caldwell said that despite the unaccommodating nature of the current voting process, they were proud of the resilience of voters of color.
In Connecticut, Caldwell said, voters of color have always played a large role in driving voter turnout.
“We had such a high turnout all over the country,” Caldwell told the News. “Black and brown people turned out, and thank God we did, because if not, we would’ve lost. The American people have spoken. We have said we have had enough of [Trump’s] rhetoric of hatred.”
91 percent of votes have been reported for the state of Connecticut.
Gamze Kazakoglu | firstname.lastname@example.org
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