On the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection of the US Capitol, we remember a day where democracy was threatened, and one that should be remembered among the most infamous events in our country’s recent history for its demonstration of violence against democratic processes. The Minnesota Public Health Association and the Minnesota Society for Public Health Education is reminding Minnesotans that democracy is not self-standing, it requires the active participation of all citizens and a resistance toward acts of self-preservation over the defense of the common good.
As public health professionals we know that states with more inclusive voting policies and greater levels of civic participation are healthier, while the opposite is true for states with exclusionary voter laws. Communities with higher voter participation enjoy greater social cohesion, belonging, and better health. Populations that face significant barriers to voting suffer worse health outcomes. When individuals feel healthier and more connected to their neighbors, they feel valued, a stronger sense of community, and are more likely to vote.
Since the formation of the United States, there has been a desire to self-govern through representative government and voting. However, there have been all too frequent attempts to impose limitations or barriers to voting upon different groups of citizens, such as populations of color and American Indians with major barriers persisting in modern society. Broad civic engagement and voting both facilitate a strong and healthy democracy, and therefore healthy communities.
The 2020 election and subsequent events on January 6, 2021 were filled with actions to sow doubt and mistrust in our country’s electoral process. The rampant spread of dishonesty and misinformation caused our political divisions to grow even wider. For the health of all people, our two organizations stand in support of policies that make elections accessible for all eligible voters, and oppose policies that discourage, suppress, or restrict the ability of eligible voters to either register to vote and/or cast a ballot in free and fair elections. The promotion of health and the advancement of health equity is vital to ensuring an inclusive democratic process and broad participation in the electoral system.
The events of January 6th showed that democracy is fragile, and requires all to be civically involved; to vote, to run for office, and to support candidates that embrace policies that leave no communities behind. Our democracy and our health depend on it.
Ellen Saliares, President - Minnesota Public Health Association
Mary Kramer, President - Minnesota Society for Public Health Education