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History of American Voter Suppression
My Interest In 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About Voter Fraud”, concluded that the cause of reports of voter fraud was in truth attributed to clerical errors or outdated methods of matching data (“Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.”).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
Personal Interest Essay
“A History of Voter Suppression.” National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Low Income
Housing Coalition, 23 Sept. 2020, nlihc.org/resource/history-voter-suppression. Accessed 31 January 2020.
Duignan, Brian. “Voter Suppression.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,
www.britannica.com/topic/voter-suppression. 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, www.loc.gov/classroom-
20the%20South. Accessed 31 January 2021.
“A History of Voter Suppression.” National Low Income Housing Coalition, National
Low Income Housing Coalition, 23 Sept. 2020, nlihc.org/resource/history-voter-suppression. 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, www.jstor.org/stable/43280932. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.
“Black Officeholders in the South.” Facing History and Ourselves,
www.facinghistory.org/reconstruction-era/black-officeholders-south. Accessed 1 March 2020.
Duignan, Brian. “Voter Suppression.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica,
Inc., www.britannica.com/topic/voter-suppression. 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,
abcnews.go.com/Politics/fight-vote-black-activists-work-upend-history-voter/story?id=71345180. 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, www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/rsf.2021.7.1.08. Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.
“Shelby v. Holder – Three Years Later.” NAACP, 27 June 2016,
www.naacp.org/latest/shelby-v-holder-three-years-later/. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.
Smith, Robert C. “Voting Rights Struggle.” Encyclopedia of African-American Politics,
Second Edition, Facts On File, 2014. American History,
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“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
20throughout%20the%20South. Accessed 4 March 2021.
Current Problem and Solutions
Brufke, Juliegrace. “House Passes Bill Meant to Restore Voting Rights Act.” TheHill, The Hill, 6
Dec. 2019, thehill.com/homenews/house/473372-house-passes-bill-meant-to-restore-voting-rights-act. Accessed 31 March 2021.
“Debunking the Voter Fraud Myth.” Brennan Center for Justice, Brennan Center for Justice, 31
Jan. 2017, www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/debunking-voter-fraud-myth. 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, https://search.proquest.com/blogs-podcasts-websites/black-americans-have-wait-longer-vote-here-s-
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,
protectdemocracy.org/voter-suppression/. 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,
www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-february-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