Gregg M. Amore said in some places, voter suppression is very much alive in today’s America.
Rhode Island’s new Secretary of State told students during a lunch hour visit Tuesday to Middletown High it could be something seemingly benign as charging postage to return a ballot, having only one day to vote or a fee to get a voter ID.
From the Valley Road school’s library, Amore said thankfully, Rhode Island officials — including his office — are doing whatever they can to expand rights to all eligible voters, including a push to allowing certain 17-year-olds to vote in primaries.
The well-received presentation was part of Rhode Island Civic Learning Week and one of close to 20 similar talks Amore has planned across The Ocean State this year.
“The polls are open from 7 am-7 pm and I’m a young mother with three kids who’s working two jobs and taking a course at night and I have to drop my child off…to daycare and then I have to get to work and get to my next job and then I have to log in to take my course at night to make sure I’m bettering my situation and helping my family, the day is gone,” Amore said. “I didn’t get to vote. That’s a big deal. We have lots of folks in America that say ‘That should be it. Election Day and Election Day only. What about (that young mother)?”
Amore — and educators on hand — agreed, encouraging students to get involved in the political process, whether it was locally in Middletown or beyond.
“It’s about maintaining power,” Amore said of voter suppression. “It’s your job to call that out. Any time you have an opportunity to call that out, you should call it out. It’s incredibly important.”
Afterward, students in the audience said Amore’s message hit home. Several commented how they were impressed that before becoming Secretary of State, Amore was a teacher, something that clearly showed in his presentation, which didn’t rely on any notes.
Asked about whether they were aware of voter suppression in other areas, juniors Gwen Delaney and Olivia Dube said that and other portions of Amore’s presentation were eyeopening.
“It’s sad and I say that because it’s not surprising there’s voter suppression,” Gwen said. “I guess I didn’t really think about it in the way he put it, but it’s a really good point.”
“Honestly, I’d never thought about it that way,” Olivia said. “It makes me think a lot more about how to view this when it comes up again.”