Save the Vote Now: How can we make voting equal for all?

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History of American Voter Suppression

The American state governments have practiced voter suppression on African-Americans since the Reconstruction Era between 1865-1877. This period saw the enactment of the 14th and 15th amendments to the US constitution, which gave voting rights to African Americans, as well as various other pieces of legislation that protected African Americans between the years 1866 and 1875 (“A History of Voter Suppression.”). Unfortunately, this progress spurred violence through white supremacist groups such as the Klu Klux Klan. There were many accounts of beatings and murders, and when Northern federal intervention in the South decreased, violence ensued. A secret deal between the Democratic Party and Rutherford B. Hayes ensured the withdrawal of all federal troops (“A History of Voter Suppression.”). Consequently, many states reacted and tried to undermine the 14th and 15th amendments. They passed many measures and State-constitutional amendments that would instill a system of racial segregation known as the Jim Crow era. This era saw the prevention of African Americans from exercising their right to vote through violence, intimidation, taxes, biased literacy tests, and grandfather clauses. Tactics like eight-box laws, secret ballot laws, white primaries, and registration acts were soon added to the list (Shah).
Unfortunately, efforts from people like Andrew Young to protest for voting rights
turned violent in a day known as Bloody Sunday (Rivas). “We were willing to die because we knew this
country needed the Voting Rights Act to empower each and every citizen to express the will of the people,” Mr. Young said (Rivas). Thus, nearing the second half of the 20th century, literacy tests given only to Black people were abolished by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and poll taxes were abolished by the 24th amendment of the Constitution (“A History of Voter Suppression.”). Furthermore, grandfather clauses and “whites-only” primaries were abolished in the years 1915 and 1944 respectively (Library of Congress). Figures like Fannie Lou Hamer, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party both fought for the voting rights of African Americans (Newkirk II, Vann R.). Subsequently, the Voting Rights Act was signed in 1965 and was key in increasing Black voter registration and voting by requiring states to get approval to additions to voting requirements (Duignan). Unfortunately, in 2013 the Supreme Court declared a key section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional which allowed the implementation of electoral practices that discriminated against Black people. These practices could only be abolished after being implemented as part of this change. However, because of the ruling, voter suppression continues to thrive today.                                              

Essay Link                                  

My Interest In Voter Suppression

Modern Voter Suppression


America is founded on democracy. However, the way our voting system is set up goes directly against democracy by disenfranchising minorities. Whereas literacy tests and grandfather clauses no longer exist, voter suppression has now taken the form of gerrymandering, long voting lines, voter ID requirements, limited early voting registration, and more. Thirty-three states have implemented more than one hundred sixty-five pieces of legislation designed to restrict voting access (Waldman). These bills fundamentally attempt to limit ease of voting, voter ID requirements, decrease voter registration opportunities, and initiate more intense voter roll purges. Many deniers of voter suppression argue that these laws are needed to combat voter fraud. On the contrary, multiple studies and court cases have concluded that voter fraud is actually a nonissue. The Brennan Center For Justice, called The Truth About Voter Fraud”, concluded that the cause of reports of voter fraud was in truth attributed to clerical errors or outdated methods of matching data (“Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.”). The study analyzed data from elections and reported between a 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent rate of voter fraud. Last year’s presidential election voter turnout was around one hundred and fifty-nine million, meaning that in this election, there were between four hundred forty-seven and three thousand nine hundred and seventy-five incidents of true voter fraud (Dunn). This number can hardly influence the results of an election. Fourteen other studies have been conducted in the years 2009 to 2017 and they all agree that voter impersonation is negligible. This proves that in reality there is no real reason to rely on voter suppression laws and bills in our current times. Voter suppression rather is a disingenuous means to seek political gains without respecting the wishes of all citizens.

Biggest Forms of Voter Suppression

A tactic that still exists today is gerrymandering. This is a practice that draws political boundaries in ways such that a political party is at an advantage using packing and cracking: methods of including as many members of the opposition as possible to capture surrounding districts as well as splitting up groups of opposition voters (Wines). It is used to draw boundaries in a way that neglects historically African American occupied communities. ““Typically the goal in [packing minorities into a district] is not to reduce minority representation in the adjacent districts; it’s to reduce Democrats’ representation in those districts,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “They’ve been arguably using the racial demographics as a way to enact a Republican gerrymander.””(Wines).

Other methods of voter suppression include the length of voting wait lines and the timing of voting days. Long lines have become a legitimate strategy for political parties to ignore the voices of minorities in elections. Because of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, more than one thousand polling machines have been taken down in primarily Black communities in states like Texas, Arizona, Georgia, and more (Klaas). This means that those African Americans who live in these communities now have to drive longer distances and wait in long lines all on a working day. At the same time, there are more polling machines in white neighborhoods so those residents get lower wait times and drive shorter distances, making it easy for them to vote. The fact that elections take place on weekdays means that people have to take time away from their jobs just to vote and this results in less pay. Thus African Americans are incentivized (and in some cases are forced) to not participate in elections that dictate their country’s future.

What Can We Do?

Efforts are being made to fight voter suppression. We need micro and macro-level changes to our voting process. To achieve a far-reaching impact, our government can employ independent commissions state by state to stop the unfair practice of gerrymandering (“Preventing Voter Suppression.”). To combat long lines, states can ensure a maximum wait time of thirty minutes on average and maintain no massive disparity between waiting times in white neighborhoods and mostly African American occupied communities (Klaas). In addition, they can prevent long voting lines by distributing more voting machines and employing more poll workers (“Preventing Voter Suppression.”). To ensure states comply with these demands, funding could be cut from precincts that don’t abide by these guidelines (Klaas). This would decrease both waiting times and the distances those from African American communities have to drive to exercise their right to vote. Along these lines, it would help all voters if state governments made polling locations and individual registration statuses available online to make the process more transparent (“Preventing Voter Suppression.”). Implementing a system of automatic registration at the state level would make voter registration easy and efficient. Furthermore, implementing anti-voter suppression laws is paramount to promoting equality. States can enact the Voting Rights Restoration Act on March 24, 2021: a bill described as an attempt to render the 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision null and void. In that sense, this bill has been a success, as states cannot add changes to their voting processes without federal acceptance. However, the act doesn’t change the state of voter suppression as it is right now. For this to happen, citizens must support organizations that are pressuring Congress for change. Groups like ACLU, Common Cause, Election Protection, Indivisible, League of Women Voters, Asian Americans Advancing Justice/Asian Law Caucus, and others are great examples of groups we can donate to and even volunteer with (Parins). The biggest way we can help is to educate ourselves.

Modern Day Essay Link

Works Cited

Personal Interest Essay

Works Cited

“A History of Voter Suppression.” National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Low Income 
Housing Coalition, 23 Sept. 2020, Accessed 31 January 2020.
Duignan, Brian. “Voter Suppression.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., Accessed 30 January 2021.
“Voting Rights for African Americans  :  The Right to Vote  :  Elections  :  Classroom Materials at the 
Library of Congress  :  Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, The Library of Congress,
20the%20South. Accessed 31 January 2021.

Background Essay

Works Cited
“A History of Voter Suppression.” National Low Income Housing Coalition, National 
Low Income Housing Coalition, 23 Sept. 2020, Accessed 1 March 2020.
Bentele, Keith G., and Erin E. O’Brien. “Jim Crow 2.0? Why States Consider and Adopt 
Restrictive Voter Access Policies.” Perspectives on Politics, vol. 11, no. 4, 2013, pp. 
1088–1116. JSTOR, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.
“Black Officeholders in the South.” Facing History and Ourselves Accessed 1 March 2020.
Duignan, Brian. “Voter Suppression.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, 
Inc., Accessed 1 March 2020.
Kyriakoudes, Louis M., and Hayden N. McDaniel. “Listening to Freedom’s Voices: Forty-Four 
Years of Documenting the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.” Southern Quarterly
vol. 52, no. 1, 2014, pp. 64-78,238. ProQuest
rs/docview/1658371626/se-2?accountid=39972. Accessed 1 March 2020.
McKinney, Gwen. “The Locked-Out Seek Voice at Convention.” New York Amsterdam News 
(1962-1993), Jul 30, 1988, pp. 20. ProQuest
w/226347854/se-2?accountid=39972. Accessed 5 March 2020.
Newkirk II, Vann R.. “American Democracy Is Only 55 Years Old—And Hanging by a 
Thread.” Atlantic, The, sec. News, 1 Mar. 2021. NewsBank: Black Life in America
5D19CF0288. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.
Rivas, Anthony. ABC News, ABC News Network, 19 June 2020, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.
Shah, Paru, and Robert S. Smith. “Legacies of Segregation and Disenfranchisement: The Road 
from Plessy to Frank and Voter ID Laws in the United States.” RSF: The Russell 
Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, vol. 7, no. 1, 2021, pp. 134–146. 
JSTOR, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.
“Shelby v. Holder – Three Years Later.” NAACP, 27 June 2016, Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.
Smith, Robert C. “Voting Rights Struggle.” Encyclopedia of African-American Politics, 
Second Edition, Facts On File, 2014. American History 
Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.
“Voting Rights for African Americans  :  The Right to Vote  :  Elections  :  Classroom Materials 
at the Library of Congress  :  Library of Congress.” The Library of Congress, Library 
of Congress,
20throughout%20the%20South. Accessed 4 March 2021.

Current Problem and Solutions

Works Cited

Brufke, Juliegrace. “House Passes Bill Meant to Restore Voting Rights Act.” TheHill, The Hill, 6 
Dec. 2019, Accessed 31 March 2021.
“Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.” Brennan Center for Justice, Brennan Center for Justice, 31 
Jan. 2017, Accessed 31 March 2021.
Dunn, Adrienne. “Fact Check: Over 159 Million People Voted in the US General Election.” USA 
Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 31 Dec. 2020,
Accessed 1 April 2021.
Klaas, Brian. “Black Americans have to Wait Longer to Vote. Here’s how to Fix it.”ProQuest
Jul 09, 2020,
how/docview/2421655463/se-2?accountid=39972. Accessed 28 March 2021.
Parins, Claire L. “How to Help Protect Our Elections and Get Out the Vote.” American Bar 
Association, American Bar Association, 9 Feb. 2020,
and-get-out-the-vote/.  Accessed 28 March 2021.
“Preventing Voter Suppression.” Protect Democracy, Protect Democracy, 15 Oct. 2020, Accessed 28 March 2021.
Ravel, Ann. “A New Kind of Voter Suppression in Modern Elections.” The University of 
Memphis Law Review, vol. 49, no. 4, 2019, pp. 1019-1063. ProQuest
accountid=39972. Accessed 31 March 2021.  
Waldman, Michael, et al. “Voting Laws Roundup: February 2021.” Brennan Center for Justice
Brennan Center for Justice, 24 Mar. 2021, Accessed 30 March 2021
Wines, Michael. “What is Gerrymandering? what if the Supreme Court Bans it?”ProQuest, Mar 26, 2019,
podcasts-websites/what-is-gerrymandering-if-supreme-court-bans/docview/2197544686/se-2?accountid=39972. Accessed 30
March 2021.

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1 comment

  1. Well done Ron, really enjoyed reading.

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