• October 28th, 2021
  • Thursday, 12:13:55 PM

Login Subscribe Now   

Voter Suppression, That Other Plague


Javier Sierra

 

Twelve years ago, then-President-elect Barack Obama accomplished a historic electoral triumph in the face of rampant voter suppression that kept countless of his voters from casting their ballots. “We need to fix this,” he said after his victory. But we never did.

Voter suppression has continued inflicting enormous damage to the franchise of Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans and other people of color. The excuse voter suppressing forces, overwhelmingly Conservative, brandish is they do it to fight supposed voter fraud.

Reality, however, shows this is a racist tactic to keep people of color from expressing themselves at the polls. A national study published by the Washington Post revealed that between 2000 and 2014, in elections where one billion ballots were cast, only 31 cases of fraud were identified. That is .0000031 percent. An American is much more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud.

Photo: Javier Sierra In 2013, the Supreme Court ignored the public outcry and gutted the Voting Rights Act.

What is indeed real is that since Conservative Supreme Court Justices gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the number of suppressing laws and tactics have alarmingly proliferated. At least 25 states have passed voter ID laws. Their objective is clear. More than 20 million people —overwhelmingly people of color, young or poor who tend to vote Democratic— lack this kind of identification.

Another effective suppressing method is the purging of the voter rolls. In recent years, Georgia eliminated 1.4 million names from its rolls; Ohio, 460,000, and across the US some 6 million former felons were denied their right to vote even though they had paid their debt to society, an injustice that is four times more likely among Blacks than among whites.

Voter suppression has continued inflicting enormous damage to the franchise of Latinos, Blacks, Native Americans and other people of color. The excuse voter suppressing forces, overwhelmingly Conservative, brandish is they do it to fight supposed voter fraud.
Reality, however, shows this is a racist tactic to keep people of color from expressing themselves at the polls.

Speaking of injustices, from the Supreme Court’s dreadful decision to 2019, jurisdictions across the country have shut down almost 1,200 polling places, overwhelmingly in communities of color or poorer areas. Milwaukee, WI, for instance, reduced its polling places from 182 in 2016 to just five in early 2020. Regardless of the obvious danger of in-person voting because of COVID-19, these restrictions worsened in the last election cycle. In Texas, the risk of being infected with the lethal disease was not deemed enough reason to get an absentee ballot. But even if such a ballot was awarded, the state reduced the number of drop-off boxes to just one per county in the third largest state of the Union.

It’s too soon to know the true impact of all these obstacles on the recent election. We do know, nevertheless, that it was devastating in 2016. A study by The Atlantic magazine revealed that:

  • Nine percent of Latinos and Blacks lacked the appropriate identification to vote, as opposed to only 3 percent of whites.
  • Fourteen percent of Latinos and 15 percent of Blacks had problems finding their polling places, versus only 5 percent of whites.
  • More than 10 percent of Latinos and Blacks missed their deadlines to register to vote and only 3 percent of whites did.

Voter suppression is an undemocratic act and an abuse of power that denies millions of people their most sacred constitutional right. That’s why a reform to our elections system should include the following solutions:

  • Declaring Election Day a national holiday.
  • Exponentially increasing the number of polling places in communities of color.
  • Making voting by mail, automatic voter registration, and bilingual voting options universal.
  • Extending the franchise to all adults eligible to vote.

We have to fix this, as President Obama said, because voter suppression constitutes a plague that undermines the very essence of our democratic system.

 

Javier Sierra is a Columnist with the Sierra Club. @javier_SC

 

Read More Commentary: WWW.ELSEMANARIO.US