Voter Suppression in America

It is simply too hard to vote in this country.

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With the important midterm elections already underway with early voting across the nation,  many Americans have faced barriers on their path to the voting booth.

Many of these voting barriers have been instituted in what has been seen by some as partisan politicking in the hopes of disenfranchising minority voters who tend to vote Democrat. Two of the most talked about acts of disenfranchisement in this midterm election cycle have taken place in North Dakota and in Georgia

In North Dakota, a state with one of the most highly contested Senate races,  a new law prohibiting voters from registering to vote using a P.O. box instead of a street address has been viewed by many as a move to prevent Native Americans in the state from voting. Many Native Americans living in North Dakota do not have residential street addresses, because they do not have mail delivered on the reservation. Instead, their mail is delivered to a P.O box. Therefore under the new law, many native Americans would not be able to vote. This is a major issue in the state, since Native Americans typically vote Democratic and make up 5% of North Dakota’s population. In 2012, the incumbent, Heidi Heitkamp, only won the state by 3,000 votes. Therefore, disenfranchising these Native Americans could have a major impact on this very important Senate race.

Similar acts of disenfranchisement have occurred in Georgia, another state where voter suppression may have a large impact on an important election. This year’s Georgia gubernatorial race has pitted the Republican State Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, against Georgia House Minority leader, Stacy Abrams, who, if elected, would be the first African American female governor in the country. Despite Georgia being reliably red, this election has become very close, as the demographics of the state have been changing.

As the Secretary of State for Georgia, Kemp is in charge of the voting process in the state. His office has recently been engaging in what many have called clear disenfranchisement of African Americans, who are likely to vote for Abrams. Kemp’s office has 53,000 voter registration applications on hold, of which almost 70% are African American. Additionally, in one of the most diverse counties in Georgia,  election officials attempted to throw out thousands of absentee ballots by analyzing the signatures on the ballots themselves, even though they are not handwriting experts. A federal judge recently issued an injunction stopping these actions, which violate the voters’ constitutional right to vote. These actions on the part of Kemp and the Secretary Of State’s office are a clear affront to voting rights that are so sacred in this country.

Kemp and Abrams

Apart from conscious voter disenfranchisement, there are also many barriers to voting, simply due to the complexities of the voter registration process.   I have seen firsthand how hard it can be to register to vote. A few weeks ago, I was trying to help one of my friends who recently turned 18 to register to vote. We tried to use the NY State website, which promised easy registration in less than 5 minutes. However, this was far from the truth. For days, the website continued to reject my friend’s information. Finally, we realized that an error at the DMV had led to the document number on my friend’s permit to be deemed invalid by the site. As anyone who has dealt with the DMV knows, it can be nearly impossible to complete anything there in an efficient manner. With the NY deadline to register to vote on October 12th, we did not have the time to remedy the issue and register my friend to vote.

Other Rye High School students have complained of similar issues with their registration being overly complicated or not being sure if they are actually registered, since they never received a letter from the County Board of Elections. It is unacceptable that, in this country, it is not easier to vote.

Voter apathy is one of the most pervasive issues in the United States. We should be making voting easier, not harder. I believe that policies, such as automatic voter registration or same-day registration, should be put in place — so that all who are eligible will be able to vote without having to jump through tremendous hoops.

If you are registered– regardless of your political party– you should make sure to go to the polls and make your voices heard. Voting is one of our most important duties as Americans, and all who are able should vote, in part to memorialize all those who came before us and fought for the rights of all to vote, as well as the millions of people around the world who are still fighting for this fundamental right of choosing their own representation in government.