Voter suppression has been an issue in the United States since its conception.
The act itself is any effort, either legal or illegal, by way of laws, administrative rules, and/or tactics that prevents eligible voters from registering to vote or voting. Since the Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013, Republican legislators have introduced and passed many voter suppression laws.
For example, Alabama, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin passed new laws that require voters to prove their identity with a voter ID.
Indiana also passed a law letting party-nominated election officers demand voter IDs at the polls. Texas allows a gun permit and other government-issued IDs, but not a student ID. The federal voting age is 18.
Some states allow exceptions to their laws, but the process of obtaining an exception can be laborious, especially for poor, time-constrained voters.
The passed laws have several people realizing long early voting lines are more intentional than accidental.
People of color are also disproportionately affected by voter suppression in comparison to white voters.
After the 2016 election, a study found that 8 percent of white voters were stopped from voting by the voter I.D. law compared to 27 percent of African Americans that were stopped.
“We're seeing with voter roll purges in Ohio, for instance, where two million have been purged off of the rolls so far,” said Emory University professor Carol Anderson. “But in one of those major purges, 25 percent came primarily solely out of Cuyahoga County, which is Cleveland, which has a sizable African American population.”
The Atlantic surveyed in 2018 to collect statistics on voter suppression.
The study reported that 9 percent of Black respondents and 9 percent of Hispanic respondents were told in the last election that they lacked the proper identification to vote.
The study states only 3 percent of white respondents said the same. Also, 10 percent of Black respondents and 11 percent of Hispanic respondents reported that they were incorrectly told they were not listed on voter rolls, as opposed to 5 percent of white respondents.
The late Congressman and Civil Rights activist John Lewis made it his life’s work to end voter suppression. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which saw millions of Black Americans register to vote, Lewis took it upon to make sure the law and its various provisions were reinstated by a vote each year.
House Democrats in 2019 passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act. The bill was reintroduced in the Senate by 47 Democrats and one Republican.
Many activists say that while they're prepared to continue to fight voter suppression by filing state-focused lawsuits, only a fully restored Voting Rights Act has the best chance of slowing efforts made by some states to encumber voting.
“John was like a proud parent, one who knew that without vigilance the Voting Rights Act would get undermined,” said Barbara Arnwine. “I’m extremely disturbed and concerned. Many states seem to want to exploit the pandemic to engage in voter suppression that will mostly hurt the poor and people of color.”
Photo: Getty Images