Voter Suppression in America

Recently, the Associated Press published an article on voting rights in the Georgia governor’s race. If you are not familiar, 53,000 people in Georgia had their voter registrations put on hold and are not able to reapply to vote in time for the November 6th General Election. Georgia’s Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012. A crucial twist in the story? Brian Kemp is also running in the 2018 governor’s race in Georgia. Kemp has been attempting to secure a win by purging predominantly black and minority voters from registered lists to essentially “steal” votes from his opponent Rep. Stacey Abrams. If she wins, Abrams will become the first black female governor in history.

While some may view the above story as an isolated incident, it is hard to refute that America has a record in modern years for disenfranchising minority voters. According to an article in the Daily Beast, since 2013 over 1,000 polling places have been shut down in 9 Republican leaning states alone. A report published by the nonpartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights showed that these closings have decreased minority voter access to voting and the impact of their voices in elections. The report showed that voter purges disproportionally affected African-American or Latino-American voters. If you look at what has happened preceding this year’s election alone, it is clear to see these findings are accurate.

For a moment, let’s consider what has occurred in North Dakota. Currently, their senator, Heidi Heitkamp, a democrat who won by a narrow margin thanks, in part, to the Native American vote in 2016. Up for reelection, her opponents seeks to diminish her voter base by disenfranchising Native Americans in North Dakota. Recently, North Dakota changed their voter ID and proof of residence requirements. Voters are now required to have a permanent street address in order to vote. This change disproportionately, and intentionally, impacts Native American voters who use P.O. boxes when registering to vote.

Since the Supreme Court ruled on Shelby County v. Holder and declared the Voting Rights Act of 1965 unconstitutional, we have seen changes like those made in North Dakota, Georgia and many other states in a renewed frenzy to disenfranchise minority votes. It is important to ask ourselves: “why?” To me the answer is clear: if minority voters can use their voice to influence elections, they can fight back against the oppression they have been subject to for centuries. America, and its white citizens, could be forced to face the oppression they have been active or complicit in for hundreds of years. No longer would we have a government of older white males dictating the lives of everyone else.

This is evident when you consider the white response (or lack thereof) to voter suppression. While researching this topic, I have yet to come by an article or a story of white pushback and outrage over voter suppression. I cannot say that it does not exist, but clearly it needs to be louder. It must be louder. We cannot remain complicit in a system that is silencing our fellow citizens simply because it does not directly impact us. It is time for white voters to become enraged too and fight back against institutionalized racism within our voting systems. People of Color should not bear the burden of fixing a problem that white people are creating, as they so often do.

It is time to join organizations fighting back against voter suppression. If you have the means, donate to organizations and campaigns seeking to fight against voter suppression and end institutionalized racism. Take the time to talk to your friends and family members about why it is so important that we have a truly representative democracy. At the very minimum, please, stop voting for candidates who perpetuate the silencing of minority voices.