By JAX ARMSTRONG
A functioning democracy is one that encapsulates the voice of all of its participating constituents. The whole premise of a democracy is to give power to the people, specifically by letting them choose members of the government either directly or indirectly.
Democracy in the United States is being compromised by the rise of a phenomenon called voter suppression. Voter suppression is a way of changing the outcome of elections by preventing certain people from voting, often used by the Republican Party to bar certain individuals who will likely vote against the conservative candidate.
Historically, Republican led states often increased restrictions on voting in an attempt to tighten access to the ballot. Take for instance North Dakota, where legislation passed an order that requires voters to have identification with a current street address in 2018. This was particularly restrictive to the large Native American population of North Dakota, as many live on reservations, which often do not use a physical street address.
In addition, the homeless population of North Dakota is largely composed of minorities who traditionally do not vote in favor of conservative candidates, and since they lack a physical address, they couldn’t vote, as a necessary prerequisite to registering to vote is having a physical address, in an attempt to minimize voter fraud. This is not the only case, fifteen states have more restrictive voter ID laws in place, while twelve have made it more difficult to register, and three that have made it harder to restore voting rights for people with past criminal convictions.
This does not go unnoticed by the government, as a federal judge ruled in 2017 that North Carolina’s voter ID laws violated the fourteenth amendment, writing the laws, “target African-Americans with almost surgical precision.” The impact of voter suppression disproportionately impacts minorities, as they are, statistically speaking, more likely to be criminally convicted, not possess a photo-ID, or have their local polling stations shut down.
The Pew Trust, a non-profit governmental organization, reported, “…this year alone, ten counties with large black populations in Georgia closed polling spots after a white elections consultant recommended they do so to save money.” A new poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows nine percent of black subjects and nine percent of Hispanic subjects indicated that, in the last election, they (or someone in their household) were told that they lacked the proper identification to vote. Where a mere three percent of whites said the same.
The 2016 CNN exit polls indicated that eighty-nine percent of black voters and sixty-seven percent of Hispanic voters voted for the Democratic candidate. The movement of states in the direction of stricter voting registration laws looks more and more like a calculated attack on the Democrats, as the targets of voter registration are disproportionately members of demographics that tend to vote Democrat.
Despite this, there has been little urgency regarding voter suppression at a time where it may have unprecedented significance.
For example, the issue of voter suppression has not been thoroughly addressed in the presidential debates facilitated by the DNC. This can be potentially devastating for the Democrats going into November of 2020, as Joe Biden seems to have secured the African-American vote by winning states like Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia (each of which has a large black population). It is important to note that Democrats are not expected to win in these southern states, although it is the minority populations of the swing states like Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, and Michigan that help determine election outcomes.
Isolating this vote, and ensuring voter suppression doesn’t shut out the voice of thousands of minorities may mean Joe Biden wins the general election. Even a top Trump advisor, Justin Clark, admitted that Republicans, “traditionally relied on voter suppression” to win swing states, per the Guardian. Without Biden’s minority vote, Biden has no shot to win the general in these swing states.
Previously, in the 2012 general election, Barack Obama racked in ninety-three percent of African-American votes (CNN exit polls), and seventy-one percent of the Hispanic votes. Whereas Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, had four percent less support from African Americans, and five percent less support from Hispanic voters. Obama’s strong appeal to these minority communities is considered one of the main contributors for his electoral victories, and Clinton’s lack of strong minority support shows a correlation between securing the minority appeal and election.
Abolishing voter suppression laws like Act Number 2011-673 of the Code of Alabama, the 2018 Voter ID Amendment of the Arkansas State Constitution, the Voter ID Amendment in North Carolina, and the 2011 Voter ID Law in Texas, all of which tighten restrictions for voting, is an imperative step toward preserving democracy. Additionally, these acts ought to be more frequently discussed during political debates to ensure Biden has all of his supporters for the 2020 general election, and there is morality in the U.S election process.
In addition to voter suppression’s role in possibly impeding Biden’s chances of victory in the 2020 presidential election, voter suppression reveals moral issues with the American election process. Prohibiting certain demographics from voting is blatantly racist. It isolates African American and Hispanic citizens, and is actively antagonistic to their ability to elect officials.
Repealing racist voter suppression laws would show the U.S will not be complacent in barring certain citizens from participating in their right to vote, nor will they stand by racist policies.