Equality At The Ballot Box

Michael Bendok | JULY 4, 2020 

As politicians and legislators, United States Representatives are obliged to use their speeches and votes to represent all of their constituents. But when discriminatory voting policies bar certain demographics from reaching the ballot box, every speech they give and vote they take is absent of the voice and vote of a disenfranchised constituency. For instance, when our country was tainted by Jim Crow laws in the 19th and 20th centuries that prohibited African Americans from accessing the ballot box, their rights were limited as racist politicians were elected who did not represent them. Correspondingly, African Americans were left out of opportunities presented by benevolent policies.

 

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to counteract policies hinged upon Jim Crow ideologies, such poll taxes and tests, that made it nearly impossible for black and Latinx voters to access the ballot box. Because in 2013, the supreme court case Shelby County versus Holder struck down the portion of the Voting Rights Act that gave the federal government authority to prevent discriminatory voting laws, bringing the racism and segregation characterized by the Jim Crow era back to the ballot box. Since that ruling, 37 states have passed laws to suppress minority voter participation by forcing voters to show an ID when they vote under the guise of protecting election security. But when an ACLU study found that between 2000 and 2013, there were only 31 credible allegations of voter impersonation - the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent - during a period of time in which over 1 billion ballots were cast, is this really about election security? Absolutely not. It's about suppressing minority voices with impunity: The Brennan Center for justice quantifies that 18% of LatinX, 19% of Native Americans, and 25 percent of African-Americans don't have photo IDs, compared to 3% of whites. Just one example includes North Dakota, where thousands of native Americans on reservations, who do not have home addresses, were barred from voting.

 

It is undemocratic and immoral to suppress the vote of the 21 million Americans who are

disproportionately minorities living in poverty just because they cannot afford to travel up to 200 miles round trip and pay up to $250 for a photo ID. And due to the purging of voter rolls in several swing states, including Arizona, Wisconsin and Ohio, some Americans still can't vote with the ID they've had to fight to obtain. As the Arizona Republic explains, since 2016, the voter registrations of nearly 258,000 Arizonans were removed from voting rolls so when they go to vote in 6 months, they will be unable to do so. Beyond the immorality of voter suppression, the laws literally alter our elections. Wisconsin’s voter-ID law reduced turnout in 2016 by 300,000 votes and President Trump won the state by just 23,000 votes. But there is hope for our democracy.

 

In Wisconsin 2 months ago, thousands of voters showed up to the polls during a global pandemic. If people are risking their lives to make democracy happen, our representatives should make it easier for them to do so. It is time that we look past the red and blue of our parties because the fabric of our nation is ‘unity’ under the red white and blue of our flag. The right to vote is fundamental aspect of being an American, and in the wake of recent protests for equality, the ballot box is catalyst for change. We must save the future of our democracy

by destroying undemocratic barriers to the ballot box.

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