The most important part of being American revolves around the greatest concept of all: freedom: freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and the right to petition the government. That last one is highly relevant as of late. For several years of our lives, there have been few demonstrations of power as strong as the right to vote. The ability to vote is a right that some have been robbed of in American history, and the amount of Americans that are able to vote in the 2020 presidential election is astounding.
With the right to vote, Americans have an equally important right to be informed. So, while ensuring that the citizens all know as much about the names on the ballot as possible, it is crucial that they understand that their right to vote is still fresh, in some ways. There are still boundaries in place that can make voting more difficult than it should be, and one of the more important terms to know with regard to this is “voter suppression.” Voter suppression is something that has been present for several years in the United States of America, and can be defined as a strategy used in order to influence an outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting.
This can manifest in many different ways, and it is not always evident that voter suppression is at play. One example, mentioned by Jackie Menjivar in her article titled “7 signs voter suppression could be happening near you,” is known as an “exact match” law that was enforced in Georgia during 2017. This law made it so that voter registration applications are not considered complete unless the information on the form exactly matches records kept by Georgia’s Department of Driver Services. This means that, if the street name has a hyphen or any extra spaces, those characters are considered valid legal reasons to refuse someone the ability to register to vote. Another key example is restrictive mail-in voting policies, as was highlighted very well by Mejivar again, and this is notably done in states like Texas. The idea is that, by making the constrictions tight for who can vote by mail, the number of voters shrinks due to inconvenience. Methods like this also mean that, even if someone is able to go to the polls, there will be long lines that force people to wait for hours before they are able to submit their vote. Many will decide to leave the line, thereby giving up their right to vote, because the wait does not seem worth it.
Some other examples of voting suppression might be early voting cuts, police at polling places, use of deception, poorly trained poll staff, disparate racial treatment, failure to accommodate voters displaced by natural disaster, failure to inform incarcerated people of their right to vote, non-accommodation of voters with disabilities, language discrimination and many more.
Considering all that has been going on, minorities are one group that will be the most affected. For several years, there has been an ongoing issue with black people, Latinos/as, Asians, LGBTQ+ individuals and individuals with disabilities being able to vote. It is especially important that people in those groups and many others fight relentlessly for their freedom to voice their opinion.
With all this in mind regarding voter suppression and what it means for voters of all kinds, there is a preset ability to push back against the methods regardless. This can be done by methods like voting early, sticking with one’s choice to vote regardless of the hardships involved and staying confident in oneself and one’s vote. This is a time of change, power and growth. With the right to vote in America, people are sure to strengthen both as a society and as individuals. The time of voter suppression ends now.