The Isolation Factors of Voter Suppression Prior to the Midterm Elections

By Sam Stroozas

  Photo Credit: Curt Merlo

Photo Credit: Curt Merlo

Voting is a basic human right reserved for most citizens of the continental United States. This privilege has been heralded from generation to generation of new voters as the utmost respect one can show towards their country. But if this is true, then why does voter suppression exist?

Voter suppression is a strategy that prevents or discourages some groups of voters, intentionally those with marginalized identities, from voting. This suppression only exists to further lessen the voices of marginalized people, and reaffirms racial and socioeconomic prejudice. It is not a new tactic in America, and is already appearing before the midterm election.

An eerie feeling of Jim Crow era voter suppression is among the 2018 midterm elections, as republicans from all over the country issue new laws that suppress the ability for marginalized populations to vote. In North Carolina, voters are grappling with a reduced number of polling places for early voting; “A new law passed by Republican-controlled legislature will result in nearly 20 percent fewer places to cast votes before Election day. More than 60 percent of North Carolina voters casted an early ballot in the 2016 election.”

According to the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit of Appeals, a discovery was made of when African-Americans were voting the most often in North Carolina, “GOP lawmakers asked for racial data about the breakdown of early voting usage, and after learning that more African-Americans, who generally back Democrats, voted early compared to white voters, they change the bill to eliminate the first week of early voting.” The GOP is creating a further divide in bi-partisan politics by insisting on attaining research of when people of color statistically go to the polls the most often, so they can use this information against them.

In the state of Nevada, 90,000 voters were purged from the polls in a postcard scheme, “[The state sends] postcards to voters. The [original] postcards were not forwardable, meaning if a voter moved, the postcard would not follow them to their new address. Postcards that came back as non-deliverable resulted in the state sending forwardable postcards to the old address. If the second card was not returned within [a certain time frame], the voters were moved to ‘inactive’ status.”

The postcard scheme has disenfranchised many marginalized identities, and low socioeconomic residents, as they tend to move more than white residents with high financial security.  Although this scheme was done deliberately to people who the state thought had moved, many voters who were removed had not actually moved at all, but were still removed as a voter in Nevada.

Georgia has “suspended more than 50,000 applications to register to vote, most of them of black voters, due to a rigorous Republican-backed law that requires personal information to exactly match driver’s license or Social Security records.” The implication here being, wealth and stability equate with an elevated importance on your vote.

Many voting rights advocates commented on this new law, saying they feel like “Republicans are seizing on sporadic voting problems in an effort to disenfranchise voters of color.”

An attorney for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Ezra Rosenberg, who is working with Georgia residents stated, “The myth of voter fraud is used by those who wish to curtail the right to vote of specific populations, usually minority voters. Instead of thinking up schemes to stop people from voting, we should be doing everything in our power to make it easier for people to vote.”

Texas rejected more than 2,000 potential voters, which led to out cry amongst confused residents. Voters are rejected from polls unless “they re-submit updates applications with new signatures on them. New paperwork must be resubmitted to the state within 10 days.”

Vote.org has been helping Texans re-register by submitting voter registration applications that have digital signatures. State officials have said, “the applications submitted by Vote.org do not comply with Texas law. Voter registration applications must include a handwritten signature, and that signature cannot be a copy, digital signature or photograph of a signature.”

Texas has “some of the worst voter registration and voter participation rates” in the nation. Although Texas is reporting a record number of registered voters, they still do not allow online voter registration, and continue to reinforce mass confusion for all Texans on where to vote, how to vote, and who to vote for. The voter suppression in Texas leads to voter disparity, and causes disadvantages to Texans, solely because they are a border state.

The most heinous and cruel offense comes from the restrictions that were legalized in North Dakota. Native Americans are the primary target of the new voter regulations, because it was simply not enough to colonize a country that was not our own and force people onto reservations simply because of the color of their skin. North Dakota residents must show an ID that “displays a current residential street address or other supplemental documentation that provides proof of such address.”

This creates an unfair system for Native Americans because, “many who live on reservations in rural areas do not have street addresses. Since the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential mail delivery in remote areas, many members of North Dakota’s Native American tribes list their mailing addresses, like P.O. boxes, on their IDs.”

Voter suppression is impacting thousands of Native Americans, and ignoring the homelessness and poverty that impacts them as a marginalized group.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg commented on suppression saying, “70,000 residents of the state lack an ID that qualifies under the new rules, That’s nearly 20 percent of the typical turnout for a midterm election. This may lead to voters finding out at the polling place that they cannot vote because their formerly valid ID is now insufficient.”

Voter suppression is a political tactic to silence the voices of those who are often already marginalized within politics. In the “land of the free,” we would hope that all people in America would be able to express their beliefs on Nov. 6th. The GOP inhibits this ideology while putting a further strain on minorities, and reinstating officials whose values are not those of the people, but that of the privileged.