Voter Suppression is Alive and Kicking
What is voter suppression? It’s when those who are in power use technicalities in our voting system to keep those who are not in power from voting – or to scare them away from voting. It is wrong and it’s an outrage – and they do it because it works.
Voter suppression is alive and well during this close and critical midterm election. It is a top issue in the race for governor in Georgia. In August, state plans to close polling locations in predominantly black Randolph County drew outrage. In October, The Associated Press reported that more than 53,000 voter registration applications — 70 percent of them from black voters — are on hold after failing to meet the state’s “exact match” law. Georgia law requires an applicant’s information on a voter registration form to exactly match the information on a federal or state database.
That means that applications with a stray comma or hyphen – or some other simple error like a typo or nickname instead of full name – get thrown out of the system. Just for that, 53,000 Georgians may lose their right to vote on November 6th.
And the story gets even more complicated as the decision to “hold” these applications was made by none other than the state’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor.
According to The Hill News Alert, at a 10/23 debate, “Kemp strongly defended himself against these accusations of voter suppressions…But Stacey Abrams, [the Democratic candidate], pushed back saying that “the right to vote is a right” and that “more people have lost the right to vote” under Kemp, saying that he helped create “an atmosphere of fear.”
“Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote. It’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won’t count,” she said.
On South Dakota’s Native American Indian reservations, sheriffs or other law officials often stand outside polling locations to intimidate voters from entering. In the two counties where the highest number of Native American Indians live, ballot boxes are transported to predominantly white counties to be counted. This year, North Dakota became widely known for a requirement that voters must present a street address at their polling location in order to get a ballot. However, the post office does not give out street addresses on Native American Indian reservations–only post office boxes. Talk about voter disenfranchisement.
President Trump is working hard to instill fear in Latinx voters. He has long cast Hispanics as the enemy simply by demanding “The Wall.” In recent weeks, he has increased the number of raids by ICE, re-ignited the idea of asking citizenship status on the Census, and is now ginning up fears around the migrant caravan from Central America. All of these actions cause fear among hard-working, law-abiding Latino immigrant non-citizens and citizens with voting rights. It is the President’s intent to divide and conquer in order to keep control of Congress, the Senate, and even the Supreme Court.
According to Tobias Stone in medium.com, voter suppression is predominantly a Republican tactic because it most often seeks to hold back minority voters who most often vote for Democrats. It has become so commonplace that the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a full democracy to a flawed one. Stone lists five main strategies that work to suppress voting.
Gerrymandering: Done at the state level, this is a tactic to draw voting district maps to favor one party over another.
Making it Harder to Vote: Also done by state legislatures, this includes closing some polling locations, determining hours for voting, reducing early voting polling locations — all to prevent people from getting to the polls. Early voting and more lenient times for voting are more inclusive for poorer voters or those on a more inflexible schedule.
Preventing Felons from Voting: Because the criminal justice system has a bias against the Black population, restricting people convicted of a felony creates another bias against black voters, who are more likely to vote for a Democrat.
Voter ID Laws: Requiring specific government-issued ID in order to vote, tends to affect poor, elderly, and Black voters as they are less likely to have such an ID–like a driver’s license. In North Carolina, a government study suggests their strict voter ID laws may have reduced the Democratic vote by up to 3 percent. Nationally, up to 10 percent of all Americans do not have adequate ID to vote under rules requiring ID.
Purging Voters: Removing people from voting rolls if they have not voted recently or do not return a voter card discriminates against low-income people who may move more frequently due to a lack of rent security. It also particularly discriminates against Latinx voters who may speak English as a second language and do not realize the relevance of a voter card. Both the poor and Latinx are more likely to be Democratic voters.
Stacey Abrams got it exactly right in Tuesday night’s debate in Georgia — “suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote. It’s about creating an atmosphere of fear around voting.” One more example of systemic oppression that makes a mockery of “one person, one vote.”