Throughout this election cycle, many points of concern have been raised by democratic political officials as well as the American populace. One issue of importance has been voter suppression which prevents people (mostly BIPOC communities) from voting via systematic negligence that ultimately causes votes to be lost or unaccounted for.
Voter suppression in America resembles legislation that makes it difficult for people, particularly minority communities, to vote. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), voter suppression can take the form of cuts to early voting, oppressive voter ID laws, and purges of voter rolls. These tactics have been used against citizens since the inception of the United States.
A survey conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, detailed in a BBC article, found that Black voters waited in line for an average of 16 minutes during the 2016 election. Comparatively, white voters only waited 10 minutes. Even the existence of the electoral college in itself acts as a system of voter suppression.
Since the American Civil War, statewide efforts have been made to discourage entire communities from having a voice in the democratic election process. For example, Jim Crow laws imposed poll taxes and forced Black Americans to pass literacy tests to be considered eligible to vote. More modern examples include making voting more inconvenient by shutting down polling stations, therefore forcing people to travel long distances in order to exercise their voting rights. These cases were especially highlighted during the midterm elections in 2018.
Particularly, the 2018 race between Stacey Abrams and Georgia’s republican governor Mike Kemp has been widely suspected of voter suppression tactics that resulted in Kemp’s unsavory win. After her loss, Abrams herself stated, “To watch [Kemp], who claims to represent the people in this state, boldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”
As a result, Stacey Abrams has since registered to vote an estimated 800,000 citizens to combat the suppression impacting minority voters within the state of Georgia.
Recently, however, due to the pandemic and Donald Trump’s overtly racist rhetoric, voter suppression has also taken the form of voter intimidation, the spread of voting-related misinformation, and mail-in ballots which have conveniently gone missing.
For the Trump administration, the tactful use of voter suppression has consistently been their 2020 election strategy.
During this election cycle, the president himself has anomalously and openly embraced the tactic as is highlighted in an MSNBC article stating, “Voter suppression has been a long-term problem in America, but having a president publicly invoke it is something altogether unprecedented.” Donald Trump has vehemently sought to use the pandemic to further disenfranchise voters across the country.
In one instance, the Trump campaign filed an emergency motion in Nevada, a swing state, to prevent mail-in-ballots from being counted and prosecuted an appeal to permit the state to review signatures. In addition, Trump has repeatedly encouraged his followers to vote in person to discredit the legitimacy of mail-in-ballots, despite the severe endurance of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
Joyce Vance further details in her aforementioned MSNBC article, “The suppression has been widespread and at least partially successful.” Therefore, this unusual circumstance presents a newfound threat to the electoral process and the overall American democratic system.
Correspondingly, in Florida, there have been ongoing debates regarding whether convicted felons should be allowed to vote. Even after convicted felons were granted sanctions to vote in 2018, new obstacles like taxes and fines were added to discourage them from legally voting. Notably, Florida has more than 700,000 felons who were unable to vote because they had remaining fines to pay off. A substantial number of these individuals were African American, a demographic which has historically and considerably voted Democrat – and been disenfranchised.
Voter suppression of any kind is an affront to a complete and legitimate democratic process because it obstructs American citizen’s fundamental right to vote. What is more, it hinders election results from accurately reflecting what the people – all eligible people – want.
Here are some important facts to keep in mind for upcoming elections, courtesy of ACLU and When We All Vote –
- If you are still in line while the polls close, you are still allowed to vote. If they try to turn you away, you have the right to request a provisional ballot. Stay in line!
- If you make a mistake on your ballot, you are allowed to ask for a new one.
- If your absentee ballot was rejected for verification reasons, you can still fix it before the deadline.
- If the machines are not working at your polling station, you can request a paper ballot.
Election Protection Hotline numbers in case of any problems:
English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, or Vietnamese: 1-888-API-VOTE/1-888-274-8683
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