Voter Suppression: The Reality of Voting in The 2020 United States Presidential Election
BY: Hephzibah Kaleem
One of the founding principles of the United States of America is democracy; a statute that states explicitly that all power emanates from the people. This sentiment manifests through the process of voting for our law-makers. However, contrary to popular belief, casting a ballot is the opposite of straightforward and convenient in today’s America. Barriers that suppress voter turnout lead ultimately to a weakened system of democracy and lead to results that are not indicative of the overwhelming public opinion.
These barriers can be regulations as minuscule as voter ID laws, to as substantial as altering the weight of your vote. As a voter in the USA, it is critical to understand the barriers that can interfere with getting your vote out. This compilation of suppression efforts provides an insight into the reality of casting a ballot in 2020, and how you can protect your fundamental right to vote.
Voter ID Laws
Voter ID laws have been enforced in 36 states, 35 of which are in force for the 2020 presidential election; 7 states have strict photo-ID laws which require presenting documents from a very limited list to be able to cast a regular ballot. In the case that the identification is not provided, the situation can go one of two ways: if the voter’s residential state is strict, the voter can cast a provisional ballot and take extra steps for their ballot to count on election day, and if the state is not strict, some voters will be allowed to cast a ballot that will be counted without more effort on the voter’s part. Voter ID laws cause a 2-3% drop in voter turnout which seems insignificant but amounts to thousands of votes lost from a single state.
Voter Registration Restrictions
Restriction of voter registration is the most common way to suppress voter turnout. Restrictions can include demanding citizenship documents, imposing penalties for those holding voter registration drives, and narrowing the window of time when one can go to register. It is not uncommon for politicians to commit voter fraud by citing false claims of non-citizen voting because the voters did not carry documents (like a passport or birth certificate) when registering. In 2011, a similar scandal repressed over 30,000 voters in Kansas. In other states, more of duty is imposed on the voter by setting designated time limits on registration. For example, New York requires voters to be registered to vote 25 days before the election. This imposition, along with many other barriers, ultimately leads to lower voter turnout and further compromises the democracy.
Purges are the result of removing people who may have become ineligible, moved, or passed away from voter rolls. However, states have been using this cleaning system as a method of disenfranchisement by purging thousands of eligible voters for no valid reason. This can be (and has been) used under pretenses to stop people from voting. Voters are not notified when they have been purged and usually find out when they go to vote on Election Day. As a result, thousands of more voters become unable to vote, further skewing the balance of democracy in America.
Using the data in the census, state legislators can reshape district lines. The purpose of this process is to accurately designate representation in congress and state legislators, however more often than not, it is used to manipulate election results. This results in the weight of many people’s votes being decreased and therefore their voice isn’t heard.
Why You Should Care About Voter Suppression
Voter suppression affects everyone; however, some groups - young people, people of color, people with disabilities, and the elderly - are unjustifiably more prone to fall victim to suppression efforts. Voting is a constitutional right and there are many ways to protect your right to vote. States have different options in place, such as automatic, online, and same-day voter registration which are more seamless choices and have a lower likelihood of error. As an individual, the best way to fight voter suppression is to vote and make your voice heard.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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