The right to vote empowers citizens by giving them a say in who is elected to represent them at the local, state, and federal levels. As the world continues to mourn voting rights advocate, Representative John Lewis, and champion of equality, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are reminded that the fight to establish voting as a universal liberty to be enjoyed equally by all is an ongoing effort. An individual’s vote becomes even more influential during a presidential election year, so it is vital that citizens ensure they are registered and exercise their right to be heard when the time comes.
While Election Day 2020 is scheduled for November 3rd, many Americans will be turning to mail-in ballots due to the social distancing measures enacted to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Considering potential delays with the U.S. Postal Service, citizens who vote by mail should start the voting process at least two weeks before their ballots must be received.
With this crucial date approaching, StarTrek.com checked in with cast members from throughout the Star Trek universe to hear their personal opinions on the election and learn why they believe voting is such a crucial element of our society. Be sure to check back over the next few weeks as we approach the 2020 election for more interviews with your favorite Trek actors.
Kate Mulgrew (Kathryn Janeway, Star Trek: Voyager)
“I must say that Stacey Abrams really influenced me on this one; it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that voting is the fundamental right of the people. In fact, it is the only thing that ensures that our government is at the right of the people. We have to stop with any ambivalence about it — voting gives everyone a voice, and the voice of the people should be heard. This election is specifically crucial to the future of our democracy so we do not have four more years of the [problems] that have gripped our nation. What used to be a privilege is now an absolute necessity or we will not recover as a nation. Voting is what determines a democracy. If you want to get involved and be fired up, look up Fair Fight — there is no more powerful voice on this issue than Stacey Abrams’ voice. If anybody cares about the future of the world, it is imperative that they vote.
"If you do vote in person, take someone with you that is expressing passivity or an indifferent approach. Right now, you can insist that they register and go with you when you go to the polls to cast your vote. I must say it again: a vote gives everyone a voice. You can't protest and you can't complain if you don't vote. Stand up and be a citizen!
"Voter fraud, gerrymandering, and Trump up to his old tricks — he doesn't want to go [out of office] because he is up on 13 felony charges. He will do everything he can to sabotage the election. Why do you think your post box is missing already? Taking money and resources from the United States Postal Service will wreak havoc and already is — in November, go in person if possible — while wearing a mask! — vote early if your state permits, and if not apply for your mail-in or absentee ballot right now.
"The major issue right now is that the current administration has performed an assault on the truth, on science, on human rights; also it has made “illegal” permissible and ok, and it is not ok. Corruption is now running rampant through our country and needs to be stopped.
"When I went to cast my vote for President Obama in 2008, I was in New York City, on the Upper West Side. After casting my ballot, I felt so excited that I shouted “Yay!” and everyone who heard my exclamation shouted “Yay!” with me! That was a watershed moment.
"In my life, I have encountered some people who have been passive about voting and what could have been a friendship immediately ceased to exist for me. That is how important voting and civil engagement is to me! Thus, in a time of great social unrest, a time of danger to our constitution and danger to the soul of the nation, please do your civic duty and vote.”
Jim Beaver (Admiral Leonard, Star Trek: Enterprise)
“Many people think voting isn’t important. Many people believe their vote doesn’t matter, so why bother? I recently read about the perception that the extremes are our only choices. The study I saw indicated that the extremes tend to be made up of devoted voters who are very excited about voting, so their passion leads them to always get out and vote for either the conservative or liberal candidate.
"There are so many complaints about how divided our country has gotten politically, and it seems to me that the solution is more passion and participation from those in the middle. The reason that people feel discouraged about voting is the very reason they should vote. The voice people feel they don’t have only gets power when enough of them get out and vote. For any person who considers themselves a reasonable citizen, I don’t think there should be anything more valuable to them than voting.
"I spent a number of years in the military and served overseas in a war. I felt it was extremely important to do something to support what I believed this country to be and what I hope it can be. I count myself as a liberal, but I’m no extremist. There are things on the conservative side that I recognize and respect, but I don’t believe in extremism on that side either. I have always voted passionately, even when I wasn’t passionate about a particular candidate. Voting for a candidate may not satisfy me, but voting itself satisfies me immensely. I feel like I am doing my little part to make this country work.
"I’m terribly concerned by the effort to restrict voting by mail. When they were on active service, our veterans voted by mail. It’s a perfectly legitimate way for the government to hear from the people, just as it’s a perfectly legitimate way for the government to send people their social security checks and their income tax bills. It seems to me that this is a deliberate effort to restrict voter turnout, especially during a pandemic.
"Anything that legitimately makes voting easier needs to be pursued with fervor. Anything that makes it harder needs to be scrutinized and, in all probability, rejected. Take voter identification, for example. We need a driver’s license, because we do not have a Constitutional right to drive. Voting is a right. Voting can be restricted by the Constitution to create a voting age, but there is no Constitutional regulation saying you have to present all kinds of evidence of who you are. Any attempts made to strike people off the voting rolls or reduce the number of in-person voting sites, especially in areas that would possibly vote against the controlling party, are crazy to me.
Examples of voter fraud in recent years exist in the fractions of a single percent. It makes no sense to restrict tens of thousands of people because one person might vote fraudulently. I’m opposed to the slew of voter ID laws that have been enacted, and I’m particularly opposed to anything that stops the right of American citizens to vote by mail. The reasons that officials give for doing that seem to be excuses to keep certain groups of people from voting, and I’m opposed to that with all of my heart and soul.”
Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher, Star Trek: The Next Generation)
“Honor and justice are principles that I very much believe in, and I strive to be truthful in my life. I can’t expect my government to unfold with honor, justice, and truth if I don’t accept my civic responsibility as a citizen. I think that entails participating in elections and being involved in your community on some level. Otherwise, we’re just being entitled and expecting others to do the work for us. I don’t have the right to complain unless I’m involved myself. We have had many people throughout history who have shown us that it takes great engagement to make changes. If we’re not up to that level of involvement, we can certainly muster ourselves to go online, check our registration, and spend the time to cast our vote.”
Chase Masterson (Leeta, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
“Star Trek has the most powerful legacy in the entertainment world because Gene Roddenberry laid down credos sparking passion for a better tomorrow, with inclusion and justice for all.
"But Donald Trump has purposely decimated Roddenberry’s principals in every way - and if he is re-elected, the pain in this country only stands to get continually worse. He claims to be “pro-life” - yet his facade of faith and love for family is betrayed by the way he has treated American families - just like yours - by his many bankruptcies, his blatant and well-documented misogyny in his own words on tape, the allegations of sexual violence against children along with Jeffrey Epstein, his well-documented support of known child abusers such as Roy Moore, his history of discrimination against Black families’ housing, his insults of Gold Star families, his ridiculing the handicapped, his cutting funding for veteran programs, his corruption involving his taxes and charity donations... Need we go on?
"Love Star Trek’s credos of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations? Trump has betrayed the Constitution’s principals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by his white supremacist policies, and his treatment of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color through cuts to education, health care, and other social services, as well as policies of cruelty at the border and violation of the legal right to seek asylum. If you don’t see that, it is probably because you won the birth lottery and have never had to experience the type of actual physical danger and discrimination that people of color and our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers face.
"Then there is COVID. Trump shirked on his highest responsibility: that of protecting the American people. Unnecessarily, he left the door open to 182,109 deaths [as of August 29th], with countless more happening and no end in sight. Unlike other countries such as New Zealand, countless families in America are suffering indescribable grief and financial terror and loss because of his neglect to take the epidemic seriously in the early stages. And in his own words, he gaslights the American people on that horrific, devastating fact. How dare he treat us this way?
"Star Trek fans are brilliant, compassionate, empathic people. We don’t lie down in the face of injustice. Like the characters we love, we take action for justice.
"Make sure you are registered and vote. Let your love of Star Trek propel you to speak out and encourage your friends, family, and community to stand against the bigotry and corruption of Donald Trump with votes for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and other Democratic candidates who will uphold the principles of inclusion, truth, compassion, and integrity for which Star Trek stands. And let’s make this a world where we can all live long and prosper.”
Raphael Sbarge (Michael Jonas, Star Trek: Voyager)
“People that vote and understand how important it is to vote are obviously headed to the polls. The election is coming up like a freight train in November. If you didn’t know there was an election, check your pulse. Some people decide not to vote, and an astonishing number of people did not exercise their right and their privilege to vote in the last election. That’s why so many of us are out there trying to remind people, send up a flare, and wave a flag in order to get your attention and say, Hey, you need to vote!
"I sometimes wonder why people don’t vote, and I have to believe that they just think it doesn’t count or that one vote doesn’t make any kind of difference. What’s so important to remember is that the electoral college is based on an astonishingly fragile amount of votes that can actually tilt the balance in any one direction. If you know about history, there was a 537 vote margin in Florida during the 2000 Presidential Election. In 2016, there were instances where 16,000 votes swung an entire state in one direction or another. There is a cumulative effect of you, and your friend, and their friends, and their family all coming together and actually having extraordinary power.
"If you are looking at the world now, and if there is anything that you feel is important to address that is not getting attention… if you feel that perhaps there may be things that have been ignored or don’t seem to be important to the current people who are in elected office… now, right now, is your opportunity to make a difference. This democracy is about making your voice heard, and many of us feel there has never been a more important time to do so.
"So, with all my heart and all the passion I can muster, I am calling out to whoever is reading this and asking you to vote, please vote. If you can’t physically get there, vote by mail and make sure you’re registered to vote by mail. What we’re hearing now is that you should send in your ballot at least two weeks before Election Day so that it will be counted. Don’t sit silently, don’t sit on the sidelines. This is so important, now more than ever… this is a giant moment in history, and we need you.”
Alexander Siddig (Julian Bashir, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
“At the end of the day, the only thing that separates an autocracy from a democracy is the power of the people to vote. From a sociological and cultural point-of-view, voting is something that has to be learned. Voting is a privilege that is inherited or won, but viewing voting as a responsibility must be learned as a behavior. You can look at various parts of the world, and I’m particularly familiar with the Muslim world, where there have been brief instances of voting opportunities and democracy [emerging].
"In my own country of Sudan, as well as in other nations that experienced the Arab Spring not very long ago, there was a brief window where there was a real attempt to try and democratize countries. The problem was the lack of an inherent learned behavior to vote. People were afraid, they didn’t trust the polls, and they didn’t understand how it worked. In a society where the rule of law is the norm, a principle that we are lucky enough to enjoy in the West, you are protected when you go to the polls.
"Having a say in the governance of your country is a unique privilege that [much of] the rest of the world doesn’t share. It might only be a little say, as in America, where you have an Electoral College that seemingly makes your vote meaningless. But it isn’t. Why isn’t it meaningless? Your vote has to start at the bottom at the council and local level. Your vote has to be for whoever wants to run water and power, whoever wants to run the budget in your community… so, the issues that matter to you can be addressed in a vote by you and a relatively handful of people in your county.
"You’ll then have a party member in power at the local level who aggregates with a group of thirty or forty representatives who then have an impact on the state. You also have a vote in state elections, where you might have a much larger number of participants that measures in the millions, and your vote might not feel as consequential on its own. But, because of your original vote at the community level, your local representative has more sway in convincing the state legislature of enacting laws that improve your life. It’s a tree of voting.
"Your vote really hits home at the grassroots level. The fact that someone would think that their vote doesn’t count becomes nonsense when you start voting at the community level. You get to meet your representative, you get to see them enact laws... and you get to complain right outside their front door if you’d like [laughs].
"My friendly advice would be to turn up and vote. You should view voting as a regular activity like going to the dentist or the grocery store. There are real problems that exist in a society where the vote is somehow negated or destroyed, where that freedom is impugned upon… where you can’t vote because you don’t have the proper ID or you are living in a gerrymandered district. That’s the fight that everybody is in right now.
"Voting must be a cultural understanding, an inherent duty. The idea that you have a moral and a communal responsibility, as we do with this COVID-19 crisis… we know that we should be wearing a mask, because we don’t want to infect someone else. It’s not about us, it’s for someone else. We vote in the same way, we are voting as a hive. Your vote counts from the grassroots to the top, and you really are obliged to exercise it as a member of civic society.”
Kitty Swink (Minister Rozahn and Luaran, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
“Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote from the last day of [the] Constitutional Convention in 1787 has been bandied about quite a bit lately. When asked what they had created, a monarchy or a republic, Franklin replied, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
"Our constitution, our form of government, the drive to continue to make this country a “more perfect union” has never been more at stake. We can not risk, as a society, as people, to not vote in this election. I would argue that we should always make that commitment, but certainly this November 3rd more than any election in my lifetime. Take the time to learn who and what you agree with from the top of the ballot to the bottom and then exercise your right.
"The right to vote is a promise, but not a guarantee. Today’s school board member can be tomorrow’s Member of the House. Elections have consequences. And if, like me, you plan to vote by mail, remember this year you should mail your ballot by October 20th to make sure it is counted.”
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer who contributes articles to the official Star Trek website and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and the official Star Wars website. Jay also serves as a part-time assistant and consultant advising many actors and creatives who work on his favorite sci-fi shows and films. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.