Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 6 months, you likely know that we have an important presidential election coming up on Tuesday, November 3rd. We are constantly being inundated with political ads and told about the important issues. But with all the noise, it can be difficult to understand what is truly at stake.

I recently interviewed Kelley Robinson, who is currently the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and as the Vice President of Advocacy and Organizing at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. We talked about what is at stake with this 2020 presidential election, especially related to our healthcare, finances, reproductive rights, and beyond.

So, what’s really at stake for all of us this November? Here are just a few things:

Health Care Coverage

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, Republicans in Congress have been trying to have it overturned. It has repeatedly been upheld by the Supreme Court, but that hasn’t stopped the Republicans from continuing to try to get rid of it. In case you don’t remember (since it’s been over a decade), before the Affordable Care Act was law of the land, health insurance was only available through your employer or from expensive private insurance companies. Pre-existing conditions (which can be pretty much anything) were not covered by insurance, so you could be denied coverage if you have any history with illness or injury, which most of us have. Children would also get kicked off their parents’ insurance when they turned 18 - now, they can stay on until they are 26 years old. We are currently in the middle of a global pandemic, which means health care coverage is more important than ever. And remember, medical costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. If that’s still true even with the Affordable Care Act in place, imagine how much worse things will get without it.

Reproductive Health Care

Another issue that Republicans have been relentless about is to make abortion illegal across the board in the United States. Despite what you might think based on the political rhetoric, the majority of Americans actually support the decision in Roe v. Wade. In fact, 61% of Americans say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Regardless, there is legislation introduced seemingly everyday that seeks to restrict abortion access and reproductive rights overall. Many of these bills are already being challenged and are set to be heard by the Supreme Court any day. I will discuss what is at stake when it comes to the Supreme Court further down in this piece, but we need politicians that will protect reproductive health and access.

A number of studies have established connections between abortion access and economic outcomes. And it seems like common sense; if you have control over your reproduction, you will have more control over and access to financial security. This paper from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research outlines the ways that reproductive rights influences educational attainment, workforce participation, and more.

The Climate

In September, there was widespread flash flooding in my town. Many of my neighbors’ homes and cars were damaged or destroyed. On the same day, wildfires were raging in Northern California. These are just two examples of ways climate change will continue to impact our lives. And it will get worse if we don’t mitigate the damage. When it comes to climate change, one political party denies that it is a problem or they say it is not caused by human behaviors. The other party acknowledges that climate change is a massive problem and accepts the proven science that shows what is causing it - burning fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. We need a national commitment to fighting climate change and a strategy for embracing clean energy solutions. Otherwise, people will continue to suffer and die in rampant wildfires, floods, stronger and more frequent storms, and droughts.

The Supreme Court

If you’re paying attention this week, you know that the Senate is currently holding hearings regarding the Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Regardless of your political views, this process is being forced through, much faster than ever before, while we’re in the middle of a pandemic and just weeks away from a presidential election. It makes it impossible for our voices to be heard and impossible for the necessary vetting to be done in time. But on top of that, this nominee is someone who is seemingly against any and all progressive strides we’ve made in the past several decades.

This week, she even said she could not immediately say whether or not she thinks Medicare is constitutional. Medicare is massively important for Americans over the age of 65. People who are retired or living on a fixed income would not have many options for their health care if Medicare were to be somehow eliminated in the future. Plus, she is on record opposing Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act. And remember, a Supreme Court appointment is a lifetime job. Coney Barrett is only 48 years old. She could be on the Court for at least the next 40 years.

All of that being said, it’s easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed when you consider everything that is at stake right now. And there are many things at stake beyond what I outlined above, including LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality. But in my conversation with her, Kelley Robinson said something incredibly inspiring: “This is not a moment to be afraid. This is a moment for us to lean in and know that we’ve got some important decisions to make to ensure that we achieve change that makes lives better at the end of the day.”

There are things we can all do to make a difference during this election and ensure that our trajectory starts going in the right direction. So, what are some of those things?

Make sure you’re registered to vote

Even if you voted in the last election, it’s important that you make sure that you are registered to vote at your current address, under your current name. You never know if the voter rolls in your state have been purged, so err on the side of caution and double check your voter registration. Visit vote.org to see if your voter registration is up to date. To find out if you still have time to register to vote in your state, go here.

Create a voting plan

It’s much easier to follow through with something if you have thought out and planned out what you are actually going to do. Whether you’re requesting a mail-in ballot, voting early, or showing up on Election Day, it’s important that you identify that plan now. That way, you can rearrange your schedule or take other actions that will allow voting to be easier. For me, my original plan was to vote by mail, but my ballot seems to be lost in the mail somewhere! So my backup plan, after speaking to the state board of elections, is to vote early, in-person, via a provisional ballot. Once they confirm that I didn’t send in my mail-in ballot, they will count my in-person vote.

What’s your plan?

Ask your friends about their voting plan

As I said above, it’s easier to follow through with something if there is a plan in place. That applies to the people you know too! So start asking your friends and family members what their voting plan is. If they don’t have an answer right away, ask them if they need help or suggestions. Check back in later if they need a little time to think about it.

Bring a friend with you to vote

Everything is more fun with a buddy. Of course, during a global pandemic, you might not be able to drive together, and you might have to keep your physical distance, but get a friend to join you while you vote! You can meet up at the polls at the same time or you can even vote together from afar, if your polling places are different.

Vote early

We are still in the midst of a global pandemic, even if a major presidential election is coming up. If you’re worried about staying safe while still getting out the vote, consider voting early. In many states, you can still request a mail-in or absentee ballot so that you can vote by mail. If you’re uncomfortable with that, or if you already missed the deadline, many states also allow for early voting. Find out if and when early voting begins in your state and make a plan to get there to vote. And don’t forget to wear your mask and keep your physical distance from others.

Volunteer with a progressive organization

Already registered to vote and have a voting plan, but you still want to be involved? You can volunteer with an organization that fights for the things you most believe in. For example, I have been volunteering to do text banking with RAICES, which is an immigrants rights organization. There are many other organizations doing the same to get out the vote and encourage folks to vote for human rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, and more.

Let’s do this! Make sure you get out and vote on November 3rd!