Summary of Voter Suppression Efforts
The legitimacy of our democracy requires participation from all our citizens, not just those who have time, wealth, and power. Securing the fundamental right to vote has been a centuries long battle for people of color, women, and marginalized groups in this country. Even after the adoption of suffrage for women and nationwide suffrage for Native Americans, access to the ballot box was still severely restricted. The Voting Rights Act (VRA) in 1965 outlawed discriminatory practices, but the steady stripping away of provisions from the act have slowly allowed states to resume restrictive voting rights policies. This is a short summary of some of the ways in which voter’s rights are in danger and what you can do to help.
Voter ID Laws, Voter Registration Laws, and Voter Disenfranchisement
- 17 States have restrictive voter ID laws, including 6 states with strict photo ID requirements. These states are: North Dakota, Kansas, Arizona, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.
- Several states have restricted voter registration by curbing voter registration drives, requiring proof of citizenship, and enacting “no match, no vote” laws. These states include: Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and New Hampshire.
- There has been a dramatic increase in purges to voter rolls in states such as Alabama, where nearly 680,000 voters were purged between 2015 and 2018 in a state that has only 3.3 million registered voters.
- Based on a 2015 Center for American Progress Action Fund report, due to felony disenfranchisement laws, roughly 4.4 million Americans are currently denied the right to vote. Despite Floridian citizens voting to restore voting rights to felons, the Florida State Legislature has since voted to require thousands of people with serious criminal histories to fully pay back fines and fees to the courts before they could vote, essentially blocking them from the polls.
- See more about each state’s laws here.
- These laws are passed under the premise of “voter fraud,” which has been found to be a rare occurrence. Voter fraud is a myth.
- Voter ID laws and voter registration laws disproportionately affect millions of low-income individuals, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, college students, and women.
- Even if a voter ID card is free, the administrative process of obtaining identification documents (like a birth certificate) can cost money and often involves taking time out of work to stand in long lines, all things that low-income individuals and college students often cannot afford to do.
- Due to historical housing segregation policies, African Americans often live in communities where driving is not the norm (many people do not have driver’s licenses) and there is no easy access to places that can register people to vote or issue IDs.
- Registration and voter ID laws that require the same exact name on all government documentation, “no match, no vote” discriminates against women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. 90% of women who have been married or divorced change their surnames. Purging voter rolls based on matching names on documentation affects women whose surnames don’t match previous documentation. Transgender and gender-fluid individuals may not present as the same gender or name as their ID suggests, causing discrimination at polling places.
- Native Americans that live on reservations often do not have traditional street addresses, causing their voter registration applications to be rejected in some states that require physical addresses in order to register to vote. States with voter ID laws often do not accept Native American tribal IDs as a valid form of identification.
Restrictions to Early Voting, Absentee and Mail-In Ballots, and Polling Places
- Several states have cut back on early voting opportunities, including Arizona, Nebraska, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. There are also several states have restrictions on absentee voting, such as preventing civic groups from collecting and delivering absentee ballots. All of these measures prevent marginalized communities from being able to vote.
- Check your state’s early voting availabilities here.
- Accessibility of polling places is vital to ensuring that citizens can vote. Working-class people do not have time or money to drive miles or wait in long lines just to vote. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis found that African American and Hispanic voters experienced the longest wait times: White voters averaged a 12-minute wait, while African American voters averaged a 23-minute wait and Hispanic voters averaged a 19-minute wait (Center for American Progress Action Fund).
- Electronic voting machines have been found to be subject to tampering. 18 states use electronic voting machines without a voter-verified paper ballot trail, meaning that voters and poll workers do not have a method of recounting ballots if the machine ever comes into question.
- Partisan redistricting of congressional districts after the 2010 Census have allowed the manipulation of district lines to give the party drawing the map a share of seats grossly at odds with statewide election results. In other words, gerrymandering purposely ensures that the votes of marginalized groups matter less. As a result, Republicans derive a net benefit of at least 16-17 congressional seats in the current Congress from partisan bias.
- Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have the most extreme levels of partisan bias. Collectively, the distortion in their maps has accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats in each of the three elections since the 2011 redistricting.
- Florida, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia have less severe partisan bias but jointly account for most of the remaining net extra Republican seats in the examined states (Brennan Center for Justice).
What you can do:
- Know your state’s voting laws! Click here to make sure you’re up to date and make sure to spread the word.
- Volunteer to be a poll watcher/challenger. While poll watchers and challengers have historically been used to disenfranchise voters, the right people can also use this position to help voters. Help make sure poll workers do not overstep their authority and ensure that voters know their rights. Ask your local political committees about any programs and find out about your state’s laws here.
- Contact your representative and ask them to pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would stem the rolling tide of voter disenfranchisement efforts nationwide.