The right to vote, despite the fact that a depressingly large percentage of the country chooses not to exercise it, is sacred in the United States. It’s not a stretch to say that the country was founded on the right to self-govern. Minorities and women fought ferociously for their own rights to vote, even after the law said they technically had it. Unfortunately, with an important Mid-Term Election a stone’s throw away, that fight is rearing its head once again.
For a long time, those in a position of authority were able to keep the vote from minorities and women using the rule of law. Fortunately, this glaring unfairness obviously doesn’t jive with the monolith of liberty America purports to be to the world. After a lot of blood, sweat, and tears the laws were changed to allow minorities, then women the right to vote.
While the law may have changed, the sentiments of those in power did not. To circumvent the law, they came up with new, more roundabout methods of keeping people from the polls. This is called voter suppression.
History of Voter Suppression
There was classic physical intimidation from hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and sometimes even state-funded organizations themselves. There were new, unconstitutional laws designed specifically to target those the authorities didn’t want voting.
Things like grandfather clauses made it so you could only vote if your grandfather could vote. If you just got the right to vote, obviously your grandfather couldn’t vote; and if you couldn’t vote, none of your descendants could vote.
When the egregious laws like these were eventually shot down, more subtle ones came up to take their place. Minority voters would have to take nigh impossible tests to prove they deserved the right to vote. Even still, the test was just a ruse. Should someone somehow pass it, they would still just be flat out denied anyway.
Current Voter Suppression
It would be disingenuous to suggest that voter suppression still happens to the mind-boggling degree of yesteryear. However, it is still alive and well.
Instead of grandfather clauses and poll tests, we are seeing arbitrary requirements designed to discourage people from going through the hassle. Local governments will create ID requirements under the guise of curtailing imaginary voter fraud, or move voting locations to places that restrict access.
Right now we are seeing some of the worst examples in Georgia, where a highly contested race is only about 12 days away. Votes are being thrown out because a non-signature analysis specialist doesn’t think the signature on the ballot matches the signature on the voter registration card. This practice has been highly contested, not only because the majority of the votes that are deemed unfit are from predominately minority areas, but also because actual signature analysis experts have said that two samples are nowhere near enough to declare one a forgery. Moreover, if your vote is thrown out, you often don’t have a way of remedying the situation.
This type of suppression is more obviously absurd. It’s all the little rules and regulations that are more dubious and harder to fight. But fight them we must.
What You Can Do
Voter suppression is cheating. It’s especially nefarious because voting is how we show our dissatisfaction with those in power. It creates a skewed view of the dynamics of our country and robs people of their voice when it matters most. Unfortunately, the only recourse most people have to fight it is expensive litigation.
You still have rights! If you think you or someone you know has been the victim of voter suppression, contact your local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union
(ACLU). They may be able to help.