Voter Suppression: A Critique Of Democracy In The United States

Voter Suppression: A Critique Of Democracy In The United States

What kind of democracy prevents its constituents from having a voice?

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The 2018 midterm elections were definitely one for the books. Millennials and Generation-Z voters took the stage by storm, making the young adult voter turnout in 2018 one hundred and eighty-eight percent that of the young voter turnout in 2014. And that's just in early voting. Early voting was five times higher in 2018 than in 2014 in both Texas and Nevada, turning close and contested Senate races in their favor. Ever since the U.S. Census Bureau started keeping track of voter-age data (1978 for midterm races and 1964 for presidential races), 18-29 year-olds have had the lowest voter turnout out of any age group. This election saw such a huge increase in young voter turnout that some predicted that the youth vote would predict the outcome for this year's election.

After the historic results of the 2018 midterm elections, including the two Muslim-American women elected to Congress and 153 LGBT candidates winning their respective races, it would seem that the 2018 elections were a testament to modern democracy in the United States. However, through all of these unforeseen victories, the issues of voter suppression and election tampering during these midterms were overlooked in favor of praising democracy and increased turnout.

Yes, young adult voters made a it a point to make their way to the polls. Was it easy for them? Not even close…

It's been proven that because six of ten millennials supported Democrats in 2016, Republicans are trying as hard as possible to suppress young voter turnout—several of the recent Republican-led voter reforms targeted the youth vote. Since the 2010 midterms, 24 states implemented some kind of voting restriction. 21 of these 24 states were passed by a Republican legislature. In 2016, students trying to vote in purple states, such as North Carolina and Wisconsin, were forced to cast hundreds of provisional ballots or were simply turned away from the polls because their out-of-state IDs did not meet the new identification laws.

Texas removed more than 400 polling locations between 2013 and 2016, forcing students and other young adults to wait for hours in order to cast their ballots. The remaining polling places were scarcely found and inconveniently located, placing young and black voters at a disadvantage to vote due to lack of car ownership.

In Maryland, election officials told students that they could not register to vote if they listed their college as their address of residence—students were told that since their on-campus housing location was not a permanent address, they were ineligible to vote in their school's district. This contributed to the widespread occurrence of misinformation targeted towards college students, dubbed as "systematic suppression." In addition to this, students were also often told that they could lose financial aid and scholarships if they voted in any county other than their home county—another fact that is 100% untrue but was spread by the Baltimore County Board of Elections.

These instances are not restricted to the states of Texas and Maryland—there has been evidence of attempted voter suppression targeting college students in the states of Arizona and New Hampshire as well. It seems obvious that the people pushing for these supposed election "reforms" (*cough* Republican lawmakers *cough*) are afraid of the effect college students and millennials can and will have on the outcomes of elections. They may try to make voting near-impossible for students, but they are not prepared for the sheer willpower that we all have to make our voices heard and make a difference in who is in charge of our country.

America is praised for our democracy (or at least, it used to be), but no proper country claiming to have a democracy can legitimately try to prevent people from making their voices, opinions, and beliefs heard. Everyone has the right to vote (someone please get these lawmakers to read through the Constitution and its Amendments—they might learn a thing or two), and the people who have the most time left to spend living here are definitely not going to be the people who let old politicians prevent them from making a difference.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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A Florida House Committee Is Undermining Your Vote On Amendment 4

Before felons can regain their right to vote, they must pay court fines, fees, and take care of any other "financial obligations." Essentially, this is a poll tax.

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Amendment 4, also known as the Voting Rights Restoration for Felons Initiative, was added to the Constitution of Florida after being passed this last midterm election on November 6, 2018.

Amendment 4 restored the voting rights of Floridians with prior felony convictions after all terms of their sentence have been met, including parole and probation. This amendment only applies to felons who have not been convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

On January 8, 2019, an estimated 1.4 million ex-felons regained their right to vote. This is monumental. Prior to this amendment, Florida was one of four states that used felony disenfranchisement. Amendment 4 gives voice, and rightfully so, to felons who have served their time. Amendment 4 is also putting to rest, finally, years and years of disenfranchisement and suppression.

Now, only two months after its passage, the House Criminal Justice Committee is trying to water down this piece of legislation. This is a direct violation of the will of the 64% of Floridians who voted for the legislation as is. This amendment was not to be "clarified," as Governor DeSantis put it, but rather to be self-implementing.

However, the House Criminal Justice Committee proposed a bill that would tack on some extra qualifiers in order for felons to be enfranchised. The bill will require court fines, fees, and other "financial obligations" (in addition to fees administered in a judge's sentence) to be paid in full before a felon's voting rights are restored. This seems awfully similar to a poll tax to me. Obviously, this is going to affect people without a lot of resources rather than white-collar criminals who can afford a $500,000 bond.

This new qualifier will prevent felons from voting based on the money that can be coughed up as if they don't have to worry about their finances long after they leave prison.

Some may argue that these felons shouldn't have committed a crime in the first place. However, I would argue that holding a felon's vote hostage on the basis of money is unconstitutional.

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