Even after the 15th Amendment guaranteed the right to vote for Black Americans, casting a ballot still came with barriers and great discrimination. Black voters were denied access to the polls through literacy tests, poll taxes, and intimidation by white supremacist groups (these didn’t disenfranchise white voters in the same way because of exclusionary “grandfather clauses”), which cause massive inequality for African Americans. Historically, voters of color and low-income voters have had their right to vote suppressed by those in high authority, and similar practices remain today — just in new, more subtle ways that may slip the eye.
1) Making It Harder To Register To Vote.
Before you even hit the polls, you’ll need to register to vote at your current address and location. While some states make it especially easy, others have a few more obstacles to navigate which makes it difficult for others to cast on the ballots. For example, Georgia’s government got in hot water for enforcing an “exact-match” law requiring info submitted in voter registration forms to match exactly with state records. Because of errors as small as missing hyphens and apostrophes, added single spaces or characters, and transposed letters, 53,000 voter registrations were invalid — and nearly 70% of them belonged to Black voters.
2) Disenfranchising Criminal Justice Populations.
Approximately 6 million Americans were forbidden to vote in 2016 because of felony disenfranchisement laws, which take the right to vote away from people involved or recorded in the criminal justice system. Depending on the state, these laws can impact voter rights for people in prison, people on parole, people on probation, and even people post-sentence, leaving them to have no right to choose their future leaders. These laws also disproportionately impact Black voters, who already experience higher rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration than their white peers because of institutionalized racism. It’s estimated that 1 in every 13 Black Americans has lost his/her voting rights due to felony disenfranchisement laws.
3) Reducing The Number Of Polling Places.
When it comes to voting, where you cast your ballot is just as important as how you do it. Ideally, everyone would have several local options to choose from, but that isn’t always the circumstance. Some government officials subtly reduce the number of polling places accessible to voters. Under the guise of freeing up budgets/staff or streamlining elections, some states have closed down several voting locations, making it harder for voters to actually cast a ballot in their communities.
4) Enforcing Rigid Voter ID Requirements.
Extensive research shows that voter fraud is extremely rare or it never happens, yet some officials use the fear of voter fraud as a justification to enforce restrictive voter ID requirements at the polls, which can greatly limit the number of people voting in the elections. This can impact voter turnout for minority voters, voters with disabilities, and voters in rural areas or marginalized sectors, who disproportionately lack the required ID. Up to 25% of Black Americans of voting age lack government-issued photo ID, compared to 8% of white Americans, which means the African Americans, once again are in weak bargaining positions.
As citizens across the United States are preparing to vote for the coming elections, it is imperative to know the correct processes and challenges they will undergo. To promote a democratic society that heavily values participation, representation, and accountability, expanding one’s knowledge on this topic can prevent an individual from falling victim to these mechanisms while raising awareness is necessary for the journey towards discontinuing such disparities.
7 Signs Voter Suppression Could Be Happening Near You. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dosomething.org/us/articles/7-signs-voter-suppression-could-be-happening-near-you
Forms of Voter Suppression. (n.d.). Retrieved October 05, 2020, from https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/forms-of-voter-suppression
Gibson, B. (2020, May 26). The Many Varieties of Voter Suppression. Retrieved October 05, 2020, from https://prospect.org/politics/the-many-varieties-of-voter-suppression/
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