2020 will go down in history as one of humanity’s most challenging moments in time.

We started the year with a strong economy, and in the blink of an eye we were crippled by a global pandemic. Needless to say, this year we have witnessed extreme highs and lows; yet, we are still here, still moving forward one step at a time, and still with one challenge before us as we usher in 2021.

No, I am not talking about murder hornets or bubonic squirrels, though murder hornets are worrisome. I am speaking about the importance and sanctity of your right to vote.

I remember my mom taking me into the voting booth at the Irwin County Courthouse for the first time, pulling that curtain and lifting me up to see the names. We talked about those candidates running before we ever went in, and we still talk through the candidates today. Likewise, I have taken my son to vote every election since he was born.

Voting, in and of itself, is a painless, simple and easy task. But convincing every citizen of its importance is a bit more of a challenge. Voting is what fundamentally gives people true power. From opinion and ideal to purpose and action, voting allows every citizen to voice their own ideas, to be heard and have one’s rights represented among the leaders of this great nation. So, how do we get every citizen to invoke this right and do their part?

The Georgia Chamber has partnered with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to educate, inform and prepare citizens for the upcoming election. Through a program called Secure the Vote, Secretary Brad Raffensperger and his teams are developing resources and providing information to make it easier for every citizen to leverage their right to vote this season. Secure the Vote is highlighting registration deadlines and recruiting poll workers from low-risk population groups to keep the voting process safer this fall. A new voting system has been put in place to help ensure greater accuracy and broader reach for voters. Information on the initiative’s website, securevotega.com, also includes the secretary’s push for a more verifiable and auditable process, offers FAQs related to the new voting system and provides opportunity to engage the process and become a poll worker based on qualifications.

Another push the secretary’s office is making is to take advantage of early voting and absentee voting options. Due to the anticipated high-volume turnout in this year’s national election, citizens are being encouraged to take advantage of early and absentee voting. And there are deadlines that you should know about with regard to these options. Early voting will occur between Oct. 12-30. Absentee ballots must be requested by Oct. 30, which is the end of this month. Because of the global pandemic and need for social distancing, the secretary expects more than 1 million voters to cast their vote via absentee ballot this year. So, get your ballot request in before the deadline and let your voice be heard through a safer and just as effective option. Citizens can learn more about these efforts at www.securevotega.com.

In addition to working with the Secretary of State’s office, the chamber has also joined a coalition of business and civic leaders who recently launched Georgia Support the Vote. This nonpartisan, all-volunteer effort, co-chaired by Michelle Nunn and Eric Tanenblatt, is committed to making it easier and safer for Georgians to vote in November by informing, encouraging and enabling their employees, suppliers and customers. It is exclusively focused on Georgia and the unique election challenges we face this year due to the pandemic. More than 150 Georgia businesses have already signed on, representing more than 150,000 employees. For information on how you can sign up and get involved in this effort, please visit www.gasupportthevote.org.

The future of our state and our nation call for innovative leadership, inclusive mindsets, investments in infrastructure and connectivity that brings together urban and rural worlds and drives home an equal playing field for all. This year’s election will be pivotal and impactful to leading us all into a more resilient, reimagined “New Georgia Economy.” So, let us do our part and get out and vote, Georgia.

Chris Clark is the president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

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