Tag Archives: Voting Rights

Voting: Vote Suppression 101

No Vote

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…

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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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Voting Rights: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Voting: Yet Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Vote

There are still a few barriers that tend to disqualify certain groups of people from participating in our democracy. Restrictions to voting and voting rights are one of these remaining great disqualifiers that negatively affect far too many people. The interesting part of this issue is the fact that voting rights are established for all citizens as a birthright. The only restriction that should prevent American citizens from voting is age, and once that barrier is passed the right to vote should no longer be an issue. However, even though it is 2016,  the fundamental right to vote is still not guaranteed for all American citizens. It is one of the remaining great disqualifiers.

To effectively make the point that voting has always been a disqualifier, we must look back through the course of our history. When our nation was founded, voting was an exercise that only white male wealthy landowners could do. Over time, voting rights were gradually extended to other segments of the population thanks to adding amendment after amendment to the US Constitution. Take a look at the timeline that nearly ended voting as a remaining great disqualifier. Then think about the continuation of the discrimination that remained despite of the amendments created to prevent it…

  • Fifteenth Amendment (15th) 1870: non-white males, regardless of property ownership received right to vote
  • Nineteenth Amendment (19th) 1920: women received right to vote
  • Twenty-fourth Amendment (24th) 1964: ended poll tax as a disqualifier from voting
  • Twenty-sixth Amendment (26th) 1971: reduced voting age to 18

Despite the ratification of these amendments, major pockets of resistance to voting rights remained. These included denying the rights of freed male black former slaves from voting, even though the 15th Amendment allowed it. Females of all races could not until after the 19th Amendment allowed women to vote. Poll taxes, which were a pay-to-vote scheme, prevented many people from voting until the 24th Amendment made the practice illegal. Finally, the age barrier was reduced by the 26th Amendment, thanks in large part to opposition to the Vietnam War.

One must ask why these pockets of resistance to voting, otherwise known as remaining great disqualifiers, existed even after laws were put in place to abolish them. Something more sinister was taking place, and history has a way of documenting injustices for the record. At various parts of our history, the following groups of people were not allowed to vote: women, poor white men, slaves and free blacks, Native Americans, and in some cities, Jews and even Catholics. It would take two sweeping pieces of legislation to “end” voting inequalities: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both of these laws included various parts which, in theory, should have ended all forms of voting discrimination.

After the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, we must ask ourselves why court cases and laws created by individual states still to this day challenge the voting rights of so many groups of people. The door that closed on voting inequalities in the 1960s was opened by the Supreme Court in 2013 when it struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act. The Court determined that many of the safeguards put in place to protect voting rights for African Americans in the South were outdated and unnecessary. You would think that would be the case in 2013. However, soon after this ruling several states in the South and others controlled by Republican legislatures enacted laws that make it more difficult for some people to vote in 2016!

In 2016, many people face barriers such as reduced early voting times, new ID laws, and stricter registration dates and rules. Voting is still one of the remaining great disqualifiers. The recent headlines from the past week prove this is true. The good news is courts around the country are knocking down laws that put unreasonable restrictions on voting. For example, on July 29, 2016 a federal court struck down a North Carolina Law that included strict identification guidelines for voting. Other states, such as Texas, Ohio, and Wisconsin have similar laws that are currently being litigated.

As we complete this brief examination of voting in America, we must ask again why so many restrictions have been placed on the voting rights of so many people. The truth is that some people simply do not want others in our society to vote. This crosses over issues of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, economic status, and political affiliation. Therefore, the only way to finally end challenges to voting is to adopt common-sense measures that can be applied equally and fairly for all American citizens. The following list is a good start:

  • Create a national voter ID, offered free of charge, that could also be used in state and local elections for identification.
  • Distribute free voter IDs at driver’s license centers as an option for those who cannot obtain a driver’s license for various reasons
  • Switch the national voting day to a Saturday so less people would have to make arrangements to get off work to vote, or keep Election day on Tuesday, and allow all workers to have two hours of paid time to vote.
  • Allow national early voting days to be uniform in all states.
  • Give voter registration cards to all high school graduates  so they can start the registration process immediately.
  • Develop a better system similar to airline screening that eliminates voting fraud.

These are only some ideas that may be developed in the future. For now, we have to rely on the court systems, as well as our elected officials, and everyday citizens to help ensure the voting rights of all Americans. Hopefully someday soon, this will be  this will no longer be an issue for any American citizen over the age of 18.Voting has been one of the remaining great disqualifiers for far too long.

This is a follow-up to my original posts:

Credit: One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers

Education: Another One of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers.

Be on the lookout for my next post… Mass Incarceration: Maybe the Last of the Remaining Great Disqualifiers