Hey, those Oscars sure were something, weren’t they? What with Warren Beatty being given the wrong card and almost giving the Academy Award for best Motion Picture to “La La Land,” and everything.
Okay, now that that I have your attention, let’s talk about voter suppression. Voter suppression is when a minority’s voting rights are politically oppressed through acts such as purging voting rolls, discouraging early voting, reducing the number of polling places, or by instituting strict voter ID laws.
These may seem like small annoyances that anyone who wants to vote hard enough will be able to overcome, but imagine you show up to the polling place on Voting Day, ready to fulfill your civic duty of making your voice heard at the ballot box, only to find out that your name has been taken off the voting roll. Nobody explains to you why exactly your name was taken off, though you have the sneaking suspicion that it might be because your last name is “Rodriguez,” but no big problem, right? Just re-register.
Well, then you run into another problem, because your state doesn’t allow same-day registration. Registration also now requires a Texas State driver’s license, which you don’t have because you don’t own a car.
Even if you are registered, the only polling place on your side of town has people lined up around the block, while the suburb on the edge of town has three polling places and no waiting. Are you really going to stand in line for eight hours to vote? Besides, your district is so heavily Gerrymandered that your party lost the last eight elections with 20 percent of the vote, so what’s the point? You think, “I might as well head home,” but you stick it out. After all, it’s your duty.
All of this trouble is worth it as long as it prevents voter fraud, though, right? According to the LA Times, only 31 cases of voter fraud occurred in the United States since 2000. 138,846,571 people voted in the 2016 presidential general election alone, so those 31 votes represent 0.0000002 percent of the 2016 presidential election. Clearly, voter fraud is not a problem.
Texas passed the nation’s strictest voter registration law in 2011, which was then subsequently challenged by the Department of Justice for discriminating against minority and poor voters. According to the Texas Tribune, however, recently-confirmed Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed the DOJ to no longer challenge the law.
This is in addition to the DOJ reversing its stance on no longer using private prisons, the government’s announcement that it would enforce federal marijuana laws and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants by ICE, all occurring in the past couple weeks. All these measures have been traditionally used in America’s history to suppress minority communities.
After the Civil War came Reconstruction, a period in which black votes were heavily repressed through the institution of “Black Codes,” in which states forbade black people from voting, holding office or engaging in public assembly. When these laws were eradicated and the Constitution was amended to prevent states from legislating against race, states began to institute Jim Crow laws, which discriminated against blacks without explicitly saying so. Now legislators pass voter ID laws and mandatory minimums on crack vs. cocaine.
Democrats and Republicans alike need to push back against this form of brinkmanship, in which legislators who want to suppress the votes of minorities find out just how much they can get away with and not get in trouble for doing so. If we do that, we will be a more fair nation for all.
UP managing editor