UNITED STATES. Rochester, New York: In what many analysts and voters alike consider to be the most critical election in American history, voters turned out in record numbers across the United States. Early results are favoring Democratic candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris in a growing margin, garnering 264 electoral votes thus far compared to incumbent President Trump’s 214. Ballots are still being counted and will be for several more days. Many states allow for absentee ballots to be counted well after election day. The official results won’t be certified nationally until mid-December.
Rochester delivers vote for Biden and Harris
While the nation holds its breath for the outcome, residents of Rochester, New York voted in droves. In Monroe County, more than 70% of registered voters turned out for the 2020 election, handing Biden and Harris a comfortable win with an 8-point margin.
Rochester roots of voting rights for women and Black Americans
Had it not been for the tireless efforts of two beloved Rochester figures, nearly 80% of Rochestarians would have been excluded from voting prior to the second half of the 20th century. Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas fought tirelessly, violating existing laws, until they successfully rallied an entire nation behind their efforts to gain voting rights for women and African Americans.
Anthony spent 61 or her 86 years in Rochester, leading the suffragette movement along with Cady Stanton. Frederick Douglas escaped the chains of slavery in 1838 and fought for 32 long years until the US ratified an amendment to The Constitution granting voting rights to Black Americans, just five years after the official abolition of slavery. Women would have to fight for another 50 years, (14 years after Anthony’s death) to cast their first ballots in 1920.
Hundreds line up to pay their respect to the mother of the suffragette movement
75-year-old Barbara T. Blaisdell, greeted hundreds of visitors at the historic tomb of Susan B. Anthony in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery. Blaisdell has portrayed the historic suffragette for more than 30 years and stood in the cold for hours to answer questions about America’s first feminist.
In an interview with Transcontinental Times, Blaisdell said that without the support of Anthony’s sister, Mary, Susan would not have been able to advance the rights of women in America. “Women then were overwhelmed between working in factories, raising children, and maintaining their households. In spite of these constraints, Susan included all women, not only the wealthy leisure class, in her movement, knowing they were essential for the advancement of women’s rights.”
Anthony’s focus on bringing all women into the fold was a necessary foresight. It’s women who have delivered this projected win to Kamala Harris by an estimated 13-point margin.
Historians give several examples of why the 2020 election is momentous, but Rochestarians feel the unique weight of history delivering the first woman to the vice presidency. Add to this history-making moment that the first woman is also bi-racial, of Jamaican and Indian descent.
Young woman’s feeling of helplessness for 3 years under Trump administration
17-year-old Asha Hotaling was nine months shy of being able to vote in the 2020 election. As a pansexual young woman, Asha has been concerned with the direction of the country under the Trump administration. In what has been a cascade of threats to her rights as a woman, an LGBTQ+ minority, and a climate activist, Asha has felt helpless.
“There are so many issues, I don’t even know where to start,” she said. “I have had to witness the repeal of environmental regulations and the addition of Barrett, Kavanaugh, Gorsich, and other judges to both the Supreme Court and circuit courts who are a direct threat to my rights as an LGBTQ woman. I am holding my breath waiting for the day I lose access to birth control or a safe and legal abortion.”
She continued, “I am watching people around me voting people into office who have the power to take away my personal rights. As a young person not able to vote in the 2016 election, I was devastated that we elected a president who bragged about assaulting women and who denies climate change.
“Not yet able to vote in yesterday’s election, I was anxious that Americans who do have the power to vote would not take into account the issues that are of utmost importance to those of us who can’t. Among my many concerns, I’m worried that I won’t be able to afford college next year. I took a gap year because I didn’t want to start college online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m also worried I won’t have access to affordable healthcare.
“I am keenly aware that this election and its outcome impact the whole world. I don’t think enough Americans take that into account when placing their votes. America is seen as the example of democracy. Our domestic and foreign policies have a huge impact across the world.
Hope for the future
“Seeing a woman rise to the second highest position of power in this country gives me hope. With so many friends who are persons-of-color, especially, I am hoping that they will have a safer America with a Black woman in power.
Asha concluded, “I paid my respects to Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas on 3 November. I stood at their tombstones, the cold wind blowing, knowing what it feels like to not have my voice count in national politics. But I am thankful that I only have to wait 9 more months rather than my whole life until I too can vote.”