American Voter: Sarita McCoy Gregory

Al Jazeera asks the same key questions about the presidential election to voters across the United States.

Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory's top election issues are reforming the justice system and healthcare [Courtesy of Sarita McCoy Gregory]
Dr. Sarita McCoy Gregory's top election issues are reforming the justice system and healthcare [Courtesy of Sarita McCoy Gregory]

US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling for the presidency in a sharply divided United States.

Trump has been focusing on “law and order”, Biden has been trying to strike a conciliatory note. The Black Lives Matter movement, and whether Trump will release his taxes are among the many issues Americans will consider when choosing their president.

As the hotly contested election approaches, Al Jazeera has been speaking to voters across the US asking nine questions to understand who they are supporting and why.

 Sarita McCoy Gregory

[Courtesy of Sarita McCoy Gregory]
Age: 50ish 

Occupation: College Professor 

Residence: Newport News, Virginia 

Voted in 2016 for: Hillary Clinton

Will Vote in 2020 for: Joe Biden 

Top Election Issues: Reforming Justice System and Healthcare 

Will you vote? Why or why not?

“Yes, I will. And actually, I have already voted. Early voting started here in the state of Virginia, September 18, and so I voted along with the rest of my family who are of voting age. For our family, voting is a family thing. We have taken our children with us to vote since my oldest son was born. We want them to experience voting as a habit, as a normal part of their lives. This was the first time my oldest son voted in a presidential election, and it was my other son’s first time voting. My 13-year-old daughter came with us and got her ‘Future Voter’ sticker.

“I think this election is too important to sit out. It’s a monumental, historic election. There are a lot of things riding on the future of our country. I teach a democratic theory [class], and so I am concerned about the slip towards authoritarian rule. I just place a high value on the election. And I’m trying to encourage everyone that I know in my orbit to vote.”

What is your number one issue?

“I’m a multi-issue voter. And the two issues that I’d like to highlight are reforming the justice system in this country, and also healthcare. So those are my two most important issues. In terms of the justice system, over the summer, in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve witnessed the murders that have been police-involved regarding Breanna Taylor, and also George Floyd, that sparked not just national protests, but protests across the world. And all of these protesters are proclaiming that Black Lives Matter. And so I think it’s important that we pay attention to the issues that continue to plague our criminal justice system. I think it is time – we’ve been talking about this for several generations – and I think it is time that we address some of the systemic aspects of the criminal justice system that create disparate outcomes for Black people and other people of colour, as opposed to [white people].

“The current administration not only never uttered the phrase, ‘Black Lives Matter’, but they have enacted policies that discourage diversity and inclusion training for government officials and law enforcement. The president has not even denounced white nationalist militia groups and white supremacy in the face of several people being arrested in a planned assassination attempt of a state governor. As a parent, I have tried to raise kind, compassionate and intelligent human beings. I don’t think it is fair or just that I have to worry whether my children will come home because of the colour of their skin. Overhauling the justice system must entail police reform as well as bail bond reform, reforming the jury selection process, and rethinking mass incarceration.

“My second issue is healthcare. One of my intersectional identities is that I live with multiple chronic health issues that place me at high risk in this global pandemic. I have pre-existing conditions, college-aged children who need to have access to my employer-provided health insurance, and a child with special needs. I am paying close attention to the debate over the next Supreme Court nominee and how SCOTUS will rule on whether to overturn the ACA [The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare]. Women’s reproductive rights are on the ballot as well.”

Who will you vote for?

“I voted for Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris.”

Is there a main reason you chose your candidate?

“I believe that we are at a crossroads in the country, and I really think that we need to come back to a state of calm. I believe Joe Biden can usher that in – I think we really need to come back to a sense of understanding and respecting each other, we need to build back trust in government, and I also think that we need to re-establish connections with our foreign allies.

“And for Senator Harris, she’s also instrumental in my voting for the ticket, and that is because of the historic nature of her candidacy as the first African American and AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islanders] person to be a top major party ticket. As a vice presidential candidate, I think she’s poised, I think she’s professional. I came in with some reservations about her law enforcement background and how that will play out with the public, but as time has progressed, I really see that she would be most capable in both the position of vice president, and should the need arise, as president.”

Are you happy with the state of the country?

“I have not been happy with the state of the country since the inauguration in 2017. I’ve been concerned about the crises that we’ve seen on the borders, the implementation of different bans – whether it be Muslim bans, or the attempt to build walls – the incarceration of children at our nation’s border. And so I just think that the state of our country needs to reset. We are at a point where I think that there’s a lot of stress that people are experiencing, and it’s because of the chaos that we’re constantly witnessing day-in and day-out. And so I definitely am concerned for the state of our country. I’m concerned for the state of our democracy, and hope that November 3 will turn the page.”

What would you like to see change?

“Specifically, a new administration would be great. I also think – my grandmother used to say that ‘the fish rots from the head’ – and so I think that we need to have a change in the seat of the president.

“But I also think this goes all the way down to local electors, people who are running our local board of elections, people at the secretary of state offices in various states … we really need to pay attention to the state of voting in our country – I think that voting is a public health issue as much as systemic racism is. We have to address all of the things that are being flagged as worries with our balloting system, as it stands, because of the antiquated way that we have approached voting – it hasn’t really been modernised as much as it should have since the 2000 election.

“And so I would say that we need to have a federal national holiday for Election Day so that people who are working at different types of jobs don’t have to worry about whether they’re going to miss a paycheck if they decide to go vote. I think that we need to have major reform in the ways that the experience of voting is experienced by different voters across all states. And, you know, finally, I just think that we do need to perhaps think about the electoral college system and other ways that we can create a more equitable and just way for people to access their right to vote. So reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act, of course, will be number one on my list as well.”

Do you think the election will change anything?

“I do, I tend to not be cynical about elections because I teach politics. I know that elections – there are repercussions that come with every election. And so I do believe that just at a very fundamental level if we change the leadership, we will see a change in the tone of our politics.

“Today, we’re witnessing a historic confirmation of SCOTUS for the next Supreme Court justice, and we need to be able to communicate with people even if we don’t [agree] with them. And I think that there’s a fundamental fracture that has happened in our politics, and in our society right now. And I think that needs to be repaired.

“This election not only determines who the president will be, but it also determines the makeup of Congress and the Court. With more than seven million people infected with  COVID-19 as a preexisting condition, the future of the Affordable Care Act,  economic recovery, the future of climate change, and the persistence of systemic and chronic racism that shapes local, state, and federal policies are all on the ballot this election.”

What is your biggest concern for the US?

“My biggest concern is the strain that I mentioned before, the stress that people are under because of COVID. COVID has kind of opened up all of these other fissures in our society that need to be addressed. I think my family represents a lot of other families today: we are experiencing strain due to having a college-aged child away in school, my medical fragility, economic insecurity, and dealing with a middle schooler who is doing remote learning.

“My biggest concern is my three Black children and the country that they will live in for the next 40 years. We have seen tremendous change since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We are witnessing a new movement that is clear about calling for police reform and moving the needle on gun reform. I do not want to see all of these gains lost with the reelection of the current president.

“And I’m also just concerned about, as I said, the polarisation and whether or not we can come back together as Americans and move [forward] – we can still debate issues that we don’t agree on, but I think we can do it in a much more civil way.”

Is there anything we haven’t asked about the election that you want to share?

“Because I talk to college students every day, I have an ear to the younger voters. And what I’m hearing is that a lot of the messaging that both campaigns are actually using is not reaching them – it’s not effective, it’s not encouraging them to vote. And so I really do encourage everyone to vote – everyone should register to vote if you’re not registered, and if that it’s still possible in your state – I’ve encouraged all of my students to make a plan to vote so that they know what their options are, depending on how they choose to vote.

“But most importantly, I think that we do need to set up opportunities where we can listen to young people, and really get them to talk about what matters to them. What matters to me, and my generation is important. But I also think if we want to see a higher youth turnout this election, we need to make sure that we’re paying attention to what young people care about and what they say. And not just kind of talk down to them or, you know, just say, ‘Oh, just go register to vote.’ I think it needs to be much more tailored and crafted and specific to the young voter.”

Source : Al Jazeera

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