2020 Election and Voter Suppression

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Deja Grissom

With the 2020 Presidential election right around the corner, many Americans are preparing their ballots. People across the nation are preparing to make a very crucial decision that will impact every American. The current pandemic is wreaking havoc, making many of America’s flaws visible with protests calling for police reform, increasing climate issues, and massive waves of violence across the country. Americans are looking for a great leader who will guide the nation further in its quest to be truly democratic. Most people feel that voting is a chance for all Americans to raise their voices and complete their civic duty. However, this ideal is not always the case due to discrimination in the voting system.

Voter suppression is a tactic used to influence the outcome of public elections by prohibiting certain people from voting. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the US has a long history of voter suppression dating to the 1870s, when suffrage was expanded. After the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment on January  3rd, 1870– which said that people’s right to vote was not dependent on race, color, or previous condition of servitude– many African Americans were trying to vote. However, many could not due to poll taxes, literacy tests, and, in some extreme cases, the removal of polling stations in their areas.

These tactics were a part of maintaining the Jim Crow system, which kept Blacks disenfranchised. Even though these tactics are illegal, some are still being used today.

According to the Brennan Center,  an advocacy group for voting rights and reform, “racial minorities are much more likely than whites to lack accepted voter ID; and … there is a growing threat of voter roll purges, which risks disenfranchising large numbers of eligible voters.”

To make matters worse, in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that Section 4(b) of the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was unconstitutional. The section declares that states must go through the process of preclearance due to their long-standing history of voting discrimination. Preclearance is the process that means states can not change voting rules without permission of the US attorney general or a district court in Washington D.C. However, the ruling makes it hard because only Congress can create regulations on which jurisdiction must receive preclearance. According to Vann Newkirk, the senior editor of The Atlantic, this event would help continue the disenfranchisement of African Americans. 

After this ruling, the states that were called into question reported closing polls in predominantly Black areas. In recent news, the Guardian reported that in 2016, Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign discouraged 3.5 million African Americans from voting in the Battleground States. According to Guardian journalist Dan Sabbagh, “Trump’s goal was to dissuade them from voting entirely from backing democrats by targeting them with Facebook ads.”

Today, there are concerns about voter suppression in states like Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, which are key battleground states in the 2020 presidential election. The power to end voter suppression lies in the hands of the American people. For most, dissolving this system seems impossible. But these are some minor, yet very crucial steps, every American can take to end voter suppression.

  1. Register to vote.
  2. Do thorough research on the political candidates and your state’s history with voter suppression.
  3. Make a plan about how you will vote. Be sure to check your state requirements on voter IDs and learn where your nearest polling station is.
  4. If you are planning to mail in your ballots, be sure to use fill out your ballot correctly and use an official signature. If not then, your ballot can be rejected. Ensure that they are mailed by your state’s deadline. On November 3rd, go to the polls and cast your vote.
  5. Get involved in local organizations that are fighting to end voter prejudice.

Together, we can make American a true democracy.

Martin Newkirk, V. R. (2018, July 10). How Shelby County v. Holder Broke America. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/how-shelby-county-broke-america/564707/. 

 Sabbagh, D., 2020. Trump 2016 Campaign ‘Targeted 3.5M Black Americans To Deter Them From Voting’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/sep/28/trump-2016-campaign-targeted-35m-black-americans-to-deter-them-from-voting> [Accessed 14 October 2020].

Voter Supression. (n.d.). Breannan Center. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://www.brennancenter.org/issues/ensure-every-american-can-vote/vote-suppression