Voting: Vote Suppression 101
I consider denying voting privileges one of the great disqualifiers. Disqualifiers are things that are taken away from people to prevent them for being active participants in our society. Denying the right to voter meant to disqualify millions of people. It is a way to silence opposing viewpoints, deny the rights of others, and prevent some people from contributing to our system of government. We know there is one political party who actively seeks to deny people from exercising their right to vote. The question for me is very simple: why?
We have heard the main “reason” stopping, or at least scrutinizing the right to vote for some people. Illegal voting is the claim thrown about by those who want tighter voting restrictions. However, study after study has shown that illegal voting is rare in our country. Yet stopping “widespread” illegal voting is a winning argument for those who want to disqualify others by preventing them from voting. It is a scare tactic. It is fear-mongering. It is wrong, and it must be stopped.
What are the ways that voting is being suppressed in our country? The following list contains several ways votes are being suppressed, voters are being intimidated, and votes are being challenged…
- Gerrymandering: also known as drawing and redrawing of political maps that represent voting blocs. As maps are drawn, they focus of the demographics of a given area which tells and predicts voting patterns and trends. Winning districts is equal to having additional representatives in government. If you can draw political maps that favor your party winning more districts, then that party will have more representation. One political party has a habit of gerrymandering and fight against efforts to fix poorly drawn political maps.
- Limiting early voting: reducing the days in which people can vote in advance of an election. Early voting, especially on weekends, is convenient for those who work abnormal schedules or multiple jobs. People like this may have a hard time getting to the polls on election day. They are also more likely to be poor, minority, and older voters. Early voting gives these voters options. One political party has a habit of limiting early voting, especially in areas where there are poorer, minority, and elderly voters.
- Closing polling places: reducing the amounts of polling places where people can exercise their right to vote. The amount of polling places should be based on the number of eligible voters in each area. Simply put, areas with more voters need more polling places. It should be based on a mathematical formula, maybe one polling place per 10,00 eligible voters. This would cut down on waiting times on election day too. One political party has a habit of trying to close polling places, especially in densely populated areas where there are poorer, minority, and elderly voters.
- Stripping voter rolls: or removing names from the voter rolls based on technicalities that the voter may not know exist. Eligible voters are being purging from voting rolls due to issues like incorrect addresses, spelling issues, and even hyphenated names. All these issues can, and should be allowed to be, corrected on voting day. However, in some places voters are also being removed from voting rolls for not voting in previous elections. This is more difficult to fix on election day. One political party has a habit of striping voters off voting rolls while the voters are unaware it is happening to them.
- Challenging voter Identification: having the correct voting identification can be a challenge. Not everyone possesses a driver’s license, so a non-driver state identification should be usable. Students, especially those from out-of-state, would not possess either identification, so their student identification should be acceptable. Elderly people may not have any of these forms of identification, so a list of acceptable forms of identification should be drafted from them (similar to forms of identification needed to complete I-9 forms for employment). One political party has a habit of challenging all of this and making it difficult for anyone who votes that does not possess a driver’s license.
- Registering to vote: should be allowed up to and including election day. A country whose economy is based on computers and programming should be able to have a universal system to record and add eligible voters regardless of when they register. We have some states that has strict cut-off dates from registering to vote. Then we have others that somehow find a way to allow same-day registration and voting on election day. There is an astonishing lack of consistency attached to voter registration that affects, local, state, and national elections. One political party has a habit of pushing for limiting the times for new registrations by eligible voters.
- Restoring voting rights: anyone who has had their voting rights have been taken away should have the ability to have their rights restored. This includes people improperly removed from voting rolls. It also includes former felons, who have paid their debt to society by fulfilling a sentence issued by a judge or court proceeding. Once their sentence is complete, then their voting rights should be restored. Again, people who fall into this category are more likely to be poorer and minorities. Once political party has a habit of blocking restoring voting rights to those purged from voting rolls and to those who served time in prison due to crime.
- Political advertisements and robocalls: are tactics used to suppress the vote by providing false information or intimidation. Political advertisements are misleading and can make voters think twice about heading to the polls. Some ads have said things like criminal background checks, warrants, and child-support payments will be checked at polling places. None of these things are true. Robocalls, or recorded phone calls, often give misleading information like wrong dates and times to go vote. One political party has a habit of spreading falsities about the voting experience both at the polls and through ad and robocalls.
- Integrity of voting machines and counting: voting machines should be as secures as ATM machines. For some strange reason, we are not concerned when we stick a card in an ATM and it has a record of our monetary transactions. The same should be true for voting. We have voting machines that change votes. We have voting machines that do not list all the candidates or list them in different orders than sample ballots distributed to voters. We have issues with counting during every election cycle, which forces recounts and additional confusion. Again, it is astonishing that we do not have a standard voting machine or technology used nationwide. Instead, each state, and in most instances, each community has their own way of voting and recording votes. One political party has a habit of blocking upgrades to our voting machines and technology that would secure the integrity of voting.
- Secretary of State: is the elected official responsible for voting in their state, Of course, the Secretary of State belongs to a political party. Their decisions about each of the previous 9 voting issues raised here can be supported or rejected by the Secretary of State. It is amazing to me that a person n this capacity would be more wiling to find ways to discourage people from voting rather than encourage and find ways more people can vote. Yet disqualifying and discouraging people from voting happens time and time again in states across the country. These efforts are often spearheaded by the Secretaries of State in numerous states. One political party has the habit of having Secretaries of State who look to limit voting rules and regulations, often to the detriment of poorer, minority, elderly, and student voters.
I have laid out an extensive case that points to one fact: someone or some group, some politician, or politicians, and some elements of our voting system, are meant to disqualify and prevent some of our citizens from voting. Historically, this narrative fits with the history of voting rights in the United States. First, voting rights were only given to white males who owned land. This disqualified everyone else. Then it was given to other white males. This disqualified everyone else. Then it was given to women. This disqualified everyone else. Then it was given to minorities and all remaining citizens. This qualified everyone to vote.
However, tactics like those presented here were slowly, yet steadily implemented to take away the right to vote for many people. Isn’t it interesting that these tactics are more likely to negatively affect the people who were disqualified from voting the most: poorer, minority, and elderly voters. Add to that younger, student voters who are more likely to vote for one political party over another. The reasoning behind all of this is clear to me. Voting is a way to consolidate and keep political power that favors one group of people over others. Any disruption of this “system” is met with opposition in the form of preventing people from voting to change the “system”.
I put the blame for this directly on the political party who has a habit of making it harder from people to vote: the modern Republican party and those responsible for its leadership. They are fully aware of the demographic shift that is occurring in our country. In 30-50 years, they and their followers will become the minority in this country. This means there will be far less people who will vote for them and their conservative ideology. To defend against this, they use tactics to disqualify people from voting. Simultaneously they are using their elected officials, especially judges, to enact and enforce laws that will ensure their way of life and political “system” will continue to thrive and survive long after they are no longer the majority in our country. This is despicable, and it must be met with vigilance. We can’t allow people to be disqualified from voting.
Voting: Vote Suppression 101
Gary A. McAbee created the Wake Up/Rise Up Black America blog to have a powerful voice and positive impact in African-American neighborhoods, communities, and society. The articles posted are not only for African-Americans, but for all people due to their relevance and cultural significance. Along with his other blog, Motivation for the World, Gary can get people talking about issues that affect us all. He is the proud author of three self-help books: Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now!, the follow-up Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now! , and Defining Success: One Word at a Time.
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