Our changed island home

Some of my favorite words in literature are from Eucharistic Prayer C of the Episcopal Church’s 1979 Book of Common Prayer, “This fragile earth, our island home.”

In 1968 the first photograph of the earth from outside its orbit, “Earthrise,” was taken from some 238,000 miles away in the moon’s orbit by astronaut William Anders on Apollo 8, a mission with only a 1 in 3 chance of returning safely. In 1972 the famous “Blue Marble” photo was captured by the Apollo 17 crew, NASA’s last trip to the moon. Seeing the Earth from these vantage points forced us to confront the fragility of our planet. The photos also helped inspire the environmental movement and were likely on the minds of the prayer book authors writing those six words just a few years later.

The coronavirus is another event changing our perspective forever. Is the person walking by a COVID-19 carrier? How will we ever joyfully recongregate on a plane in close quarters again? Perhaps we won’t for a long time.

Gov. Little issued an executive order yesterday making a dramatic change to our revered electoral process in Idaho for the May 19 primary: 1) all Idaho voters must vote by absentee ballot, with no polling places, and 2) same-day registration will not be allowed. I treasure the social tradition of voting with others on election day and am proud that Idaho allows same-day registration. But I support the governor’s action to protect Idahoans based on science.

Instead of a deadline 25 days before the election, online registration will be extended to May 7. Absentee ballot request forms soon will be sent to all Idaho households with registered voters — excluding those who already requested absentee ballots, the volume of which overwhelmed the secretary of state’s website this week. A lot of cross-checking will be done to ensure each voter gets just one ballot, according to Chief Deputy Secretary of State Chad Houck. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 11, and completed ballots, if mailed, must be postmarked by May 19 and received by May 24. In Bonneville County, for now, registration forms and absentee ballot requests may be completed at the Elections Office and dropped off in ballot boxes, and absentee ballots dropped off up to the evening of Election Day. Only about 18% of Idaho’s 900,000 registered voters are expected to vote in the primary. We should improve those percentages.

Let’s learn from the coronavirus. Our world is different from just a few weeks ago, but if we heed the advice of scientists by sheltering in place, we will all benefit. If we elect candidates who want to address the changing issues of our time — including climate change — we will all benefit. With Earth Day just a few days away, register to vote and request your ballot early to ensure your vote counts for candidates wanting to address the critical issues facing Idaho today — based on science. The Democratic candidates in District 33 give you that option.