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As voting in the 2020 election ends, Anoa challenges everyone to stay vigilant, care for one another, and make a plan for the work ahead. While election officials work hard to make sure every vote is counted, we need to look forward to setting the agenda for sustained engagement beyond 2020. With runoff elections happening in Georgia and legislative cycles starting after the new year, there is a lot of work still left to do. We need to shift the way our communities engage in democracy beyond the ballot box. Voting is important, but it is only one tool in our toolbox. 

We have made it through another election period and are on to the ballot counting, ballot chasing and more. 

What do we do now? We voted, now what? 

For those of us that have cast our ballots, if you're living in states that are waiting for the counts to be completed, take a deep breath.

And let it out. This is a part of the work. 

Every vote must count, regardless of whether it was cast absentee or vote by mail, whether it was cast in person and early voting or in person on election day.

For those who had to fill out a provisional ballot and need time to cure their ballot, this is the period we're in right now. 

This is a part of the process. And we need to make sure that it works the way it's intended to. 

We also have laws in many states that prohibit the counting of absentee ballots prior to the end of all voting. 

You heard that right. There are some states where you cannot start counting absentee ballots until all the polls have closed and the election period is completely done. That also delayed the count. 

But this is a part of what is already built into the process. In several instances, there were advocates and legislators and even some governors and Secretaries of states that tried to get state legislators to change the rules and adapt rules that would make counting of absentee ballots go a little bit quicker, to make it a little bit more amenable to keeping it on a shorter time schedule. 

Unfortunately, here we are—waiting.

But think about what we gained, and how much further we move how many more we brought along with us. We need to reassess and take a brief moment. Only take a brief moment, though—because we do need you if you're in a state that has runoffs. Here in Georgia, we will have at least one US Senate race runoff. These are elections that if based on your state laws, someone didn't get a clear majority, then you have another election to see who will ultimately win.

We do know that there have been some amazing shifts happening across the board. In Mississippi, a new flag was adopted. 

Mississippi also rejected finally repudiated an old prevision of a Jim Crow remnant that created basically the same functional equivalent of an electoral college within the state 

Some like things are moving in the right direction. But then there's the usual racism and white supremacy that outweighed the greater good. 

We know that just based on the history of this country that those are things that are going to have to be contended with. Yet we've seen amazing resilience of organizers from Alamance County, North Carolina, to Georgia, down in Dougherty County, to Mississippi, to Texas.

We got another win in Florida, where minimum wage will move forward. Yet we still see the disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated folks who ought to have their rights restored because of Amendment 4. 

We're seeing similar issues in terms of rights restoration in Georgia, Tennessee, across the country across the South. 

That determination to show up no matter what. Folks went back and marched to the polls on Tuesday, because people still needed to vote. 

Their voices deserve to be heard, and the community decided it was going to show up.

We're seeing a shift. We may not be seeing a shift in terms of winning over the hearts and minds of convincing people who are comfortable voting for racists, that they're no longer racist in the greater good and only you have these good issues. 

But appeasing to folks in a way that actually undermines and throws many of our impacted communities under the bus,  chasing voters as if they're a white whale is not going to help us move our community forward.

But you know what will? Collective organizing.

Collectively building together and continuing to bring people along to the process and shifting the way in which we engage in this business of politics. 

We're talking about democracy, and how it functions. There's a practice to it. 

It has to be a part of the very fiber of the way we're moving, not just every four years

But how are we moving across cycles? We have municipal elections coming up in many states next year. In 2022, we'll see midterm elections, we'll also see another set of state elections as well. 

Legislative cycles will be starting soon. What are the issues that matter most to you? Voter suppression and the other barriers that limit our access to democracy—they're not going to rest. So neither can we.

Folks are staying on top of what needs to happen. We need to keep calm. We need to take care of each other, and we need to be alert and vigilant. 

We voted, now what? We pay attention to what's going on, we follow and keep in touch with folks to find out what's the next move. 

We build capacity with our folks in our community. 

Not only do we make a plan for what's happening right now, we make a plan going forward past the inauguration, we make a plan for those first 100 days, and we make a plan for the first year.

We need to share good information so that folks, like your people in your community in your organizing spaces, aren't flustered and freaking out about what's happening right now. 

Take a deep breath with me. Because it's gonna be alright. 

Check out:

Illustrated: The South isn't so anti-abortion after all. Kentucky proved it at the polls.

A mother-daughter artist duo spoke to three activists to illustrate how organizers pulled off an electoral win for abortion in a red, anti-abortion state.

Activists across Kentucky organized voters against an amendment that would have prevented a right to abortion or abortion funds in the state constitution. In illustration, meet three folks who were part of the movement to defeat Amendment 2.

What questions do you have about this election? Text us at (919) 642-1858, or sign up using the form below. We'll respond, investigate, or connect you with someone locally who can help.

Further reading:

Blue County, Purple State

In Orange County, North Carolina, midterm preparations illuminate both liberal and conservative fears about voter intimidation, election security, and the struggle for the future of the swing state.

While the county might remain an uphill battle for Republicans, North Carolina as a whole is a political toss-up.

On abortion, count on Gen Z for more than votes

In a midterm election season rife with speculation about "the youth vote," these young Southerners fighting for abortion access know that their work doesn't end on election day.

For all the debate on how young voters will show up in 2022, there's a mismatch between campaigns to engage them and their experiences organizing for reproductive justice on the ground.

How we save ourselves: Interventions beyond the ballot box

As The South Votes, Episode 4. 'Don't boo, just vote' is a tired refrain. It takes more than an election to save ourselves—let alone Democracy.

Groups that employ continued, year-round civic engagement in the South walk us through the connection between electoral power and creating real opportunities for our communities to thrive.

How we fight gerrymandering in the South

As The South Votes, Episode 2. What gerrymandering looks like in the South—and what we can do about it before it's too late.

Putting redistricting in context, with a spotlight on the legal challenges to some highly questionable maps that have been allowed to go into effect for the upcoming election.

We're going to find out one way or another how this thing shakes out. 

Then we're going to continue to plan.

We're going to take care of each other and we're going to move forward.

We have more seats to pick up. 

We have more wins. 

We have more opportunity ahead of us.

Anoa Changa

Anoa is an Atlanta based movement journalist, influenced by grassroots-led electoral organizing efforts. She is the host of the podcast “The Way with Anoa” tackling politics and current events through a Black progressive feminist perspective.